In a classic Peanuts comic strip, Charlie Brown goes to Lucy for psychiatric help. He says, “What can you do when you don’t fit in? What can you do when life seems to be passing you by?” Lucy leads Charlie away from her booth and says, “Follow me. I want to show you something. See the horizon over there? See how big this world is? See how much room there is for everybody? Have you ever seen any other worlds?” Charlie replies meekly, “No.” She continues, “As far as you know, this is the only world there is… right?” Even more meekly, Charlie says, “Right.” Lucy presses on, “There are no other worlds for you to live in… right?” Charlie admits, “Right.” “You were born to live in this world… right?” “Right,” says Charlie. Lucy then explodes, “Well, live in it then! Five cents, please.” While we may disagree with Lucy’s counseling technique, we recognize she is on to something. Eleanor Roosevelt put it this way, “You would not worry about what others are thinking of you if you realized they weren’t thinking of you.”
In coming to terms with where we fit, or our life’s purpose, I would like to introduce you to three people:
1. The Driven – The victor: These are the prosperous, the powerful, the performers
2. The Dismissed – The victim: These are the disenfranchised, disengaged and deserted
3. The Disciplined – The victorious: These triumph over failure, trample on obstacles and tend to their responsibilities.
The Driven—The victor
He’s rich. He wears Italian shoes and tailored suits. He has diversified investments. He has unlimited credit on a platinum card. He lives like he flies — first class. He’s young. He pumps away fatigue at the gym and slam-dunks old age on the court. His belly is flat, his eyes sharp. Energy is his trademark, and death is an eternity away. He’s powerful. If you don’t think so, just ask him. You’ve got questions? He’s got answers. You’ve got problems? He’s got solutions. You’ve got dilemmas? He’s got opinions. He knows where he’s going, and he’ll be there tomorrow. He’s the new generation. He has mastered the three “Ps” of life: Prosperity, Posterity, and Power. The skies are clear blue, and his hot air balloon is being driven by a moderate breeze. From his perspective, he is on top of the world.
The Dismissed— The victim
This person lives under a cloud. Misfortunes, financial reversals and unforeseen circumstances have shattered his dreams, scandalized his trust and shortened his vision. As T S Eliot put it, he is one of the “hollow men who has shape without form, and shade without color.” This person is jaundiced with envy, corrupted with covetousness, and calloused by disappointment. The government, his parents, his partner, his firm, and many others share the blame for his failure to live up to his potential.
My brother owned a company that built customized homes. His land development projects did not have cookie cutter homes. He discovered a piece of land that had real developmental potential. He presented his plan to the city planning commission and received high commendation and verbal approval. His desire was to include family and close friends in the investment. However, the city council reversed the planning commission’s verbal commitment. He was left with over a million dollars’ worth of land that couldn’t be developed. His personal debt was just over a million dollars plus what others had invested. The agricultural land freeze had sabotaged his plan and left him in a “sinkhole.” He had a decision to make: become a victim or look for a creative solution. Together we worked out a creative solution and the bank agreed. This solution opened the door for him to step into his life’s purpose.
The Disciplined—The victorious
The disciplined person will not allow themselves to wallow in self-pity, sink in the quagmire of self-doubt or cocoon in the prison of self-protection. The victorious person does not have to win the game or come in first. But they do need to know that they have given their best effort to the contest. The movie, When The Game Stands Tall, tells the true story of the high school football team that had 151 successive victories. The team’s first loss, plus the heart attack of the coach, plunged the team into despair. What brought the team out of the slough of despondency? A resilient coach who taught them that victory was not about winning. Victory is concentrating all of one’s talents and energy on the task at hand so that when the game ends, I know that I have given everything I have. Furthermore, it is having the security to say, “Who could help me do a better job than I have done?” Never measure your success in the war by an individual battle.
I remember reading the account of a father who arrived at his son’s baseball game late. He looked at the scoreboard and saw that score was 17-0 in favor of the opposing team. His son was on third base. He called to him and said, “Son, what is wrong? You are down 17- 0!” The son replied, “Don’t worry dad! It’s only the first inning.”
The disciplined person never allows the score to determine what he puts into the game. Adversity is the gymnasium that produces champions. Adversity, pushback and rejection have the potential of developing our capacity to not impose our personal timelines on people and projects. That strengthens our ability to keep persevering until the goal is achieved. Those two strategies develop character that is trustworthy. That character enables us to invest in people without consideration of what we will get in return. Personally, I can’t think of a better formula for success in life. At the end of the day success is not measured by what you possess but rather by what you become. In fact, what profit is there if I amass great wealth but end up losing my own soul? What am I willing to give in exchange for the eternal destiny of my soul?
Keep looking up and I will see you at the top.