The Wills, the Won’ts and the Can’ts

“There are three kinds of people in the world, says a recent writer, “the wills, the won’ts, and the can’ts.   The first accomplish everything; the second oppose everything; the third fail in everything.”

The shores of fortune, as Foster says, are covered with the stranded wrecks of men and women of brilliant ability, but who have wanted courage, faith, and decision, and have therefore perished in sight of more resolute but less capable adventures, who succeeded in making port.

Were I called upon to express in a word the secret of so many failures among those who started out with high hopes, I should say they lacked will-power.  They could not half will:  and what is a man or woman without a will?  They are like an engine without steam.  Genius unexecuted is no more genius than a bushel of acorns is a forest of oaks.

Will has been called the spinal column of personality.  “The will in it relation to life,” says an English writer, “may be compared at once to the rudder and to the steam engine of a vessel, on the confined and related action of which it depends entirely for the direction of its course and the vigor of its movement.”

Strength of will is the test of a young person’s possibilities.  Can they will strong enough, and hold whatever they undertake with an iron grip?  It is the iron grip that takes and holds.  What chance is there in the crowding, pushing, selfish, greed world, where everything is pusher or pushed, for a young woman or man with no will, no grip on life?  The woman or man who would forge to the front in the competitive age must be a person of prompt and determined decision.

(This is an excerpt written 1934 that is still relevant in 2020!)

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Look in the Mirror

Hurt gives us the opportunity to know ourselves much better than does success.  Many of the world’s great achievers have been lonely.  This gave deeper self-knowledge and understanding of their uniqueness.  When the time came to steer their course, they didn’t have to depend on others.

These alone times help us know two things:  1) our destructive weaknesses  and 2) our constructive strengths.  Knowing these two allows freedom to operate well under pressure.

We never truly know ourselves until we navigate the easy and hard times.  The breadth of our weaknesses is hidden if we only have one experience or the other.  Just as it is important to know the weight limit on a bridge, so it is important to know our own breaking point.  We can bolster our weaknesses only if we truly understand them.

As Dr. Dennis Gabor in The Mature Society points out, history provides proof that in trouble man can be noble, but cannot sustain that nobility in long-term prosperity.

In an old issue of The Monthly Letter of the Royal Bank of Canada, I read, “The determining element in maturity is not so much what happens to a person, but the way he takes it.  The responses to life of a mature person are of good quality and can be counted on.”  The opposite if the juvenile response to problems and the obligations of life.

Knowledge of our self must include our ability to trust others and to trust principles, particularly divine principles.  Eric Erickson, the eminent psychiatrist, says that the proper development of trust in a child is one of the most fundamental necessities for a healthy life.  Too often I see people in trouble who have let trust turn to cynicism.

The lack of well-placed trust creates tentative living.  Trust in the one true God gives us strength to walk through the dark times.  Knowledge of Him allows knowledge of ourselves.  And self-knowledge comes as one of the values of the valleys.

This week think about: 1) How have dark times helped me know myself? 2) Where am I finding the value in the valley? 3) What are my destructive weaknesses, as well as my constructive strengths?

Words of Wisdom:  “Self-knowledge is one of the values of the valleys.”

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Depression Lifted

Many are sick because they are basically unhappy.  For this condition a medicine is offered in these words:

            A merry heart does good, like medicine…Proverbs 17:22

Joy has healing value, but gloom is sickening.  This is why Jesus so emphatically tells us to rejoice.  Learn to live joyfully.  Take a hopeful and optimistic attitude.  Think happy thoughts, say happy things and put oy into people’s lives.  The more you do this, the more surely you will keep your own spirits high.

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Realize the Power Within You

Realize the power that is within you, and you will no longer be the victim of a depressed spirit.

And what is this inner power?  Simply the God-given ability to believe.  To the extent to which you develop this faculty, you will master the defeats in your life.  The great issue is to learn to believe.

This is stated in one of the most important of all Scripture passages:

“Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Mark 9:23

Learn to believe.  Learn to cast out doubt.

This is done by the practice of affirmation.  Affirm faith, think positively, visualize achievement.  Never think doubt.  Always think faith.

This text affirms that when you learn to believe, the area of the impossible is vastly reduced and the area of the possible is greatly increased.

If you set this text firmly at the center of your thought patterns, you will never again be a victim of low spirits.

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First, Do No Harm

Love builds up.

1 Corinthians 8:1

I grew up watching doctor TV shows like M*A*S*H, Trapper John, M.D., and Quincy.  When the characters in those shows faced an ethical dilemma, you often heard someone remind them of their oath:  the Hippocratic Oath.  It comes from ancient Greece, from Hippocrates, who is considered the be the father of medicine.  A key part of that oath was swearing to do no harm.  The physician swears that his or her actions will always contribute to the betterment of the patient.

We need to have a personal oath like this to guide our words to our friends, neighbors and others touching our life.  Our words can cut like a  knife, or they can bring recovery like a prescription.  They can hurt or they can heal.  When our words are harsh and unkind, they put distance between us and others.  When our words are born of love, they draw us closer.

God teaches us that love must always edify.  In the same way a doctor’s actions should always be for the good of the patient, our words should always seek to build up others.  Take a personal oath today:  When it comes to your words, first, do no harm.

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Making Your Future Bigger Than Your Past

Alvin Dark, former major-league baseball manager, used to say, “There’s no such thing as taking a pitcher out. There’s only bringing another pitcher in.” In other words, don’t look back at the bad pitches, the walked runners, the mistakes and the errors of the past. Instead, focus on the next pitch and on how to get out the next batter. Until the last out of the final inning, the only thing that matters is that next pitch. This mindset is crucial not only to effective sports management but to effective life management as well.

Future Thoughts

  1. “The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time.”
    ~ Abraham Lincoln

Many aspiring authors wish to know the key to becoming a good writer. It’s simple: start writing something every day. The secret to your success is determined by your daily agenda. Dreams appear impossibly unachievable when viewed in their entirety. However, you don’t have to make them happen overnight; you only need to make the most of the present day.

  1. The future is that time when you’ll wish you had done what you aren’t doing now.

Dr. Anthony Campolo tells about a sociological study in which fifty people over the age of ninety-five were asked one question: “If you could live your life over again, what would you do differently?” It was an open-ended question, and a multiplicity of responses came from these elderly senior citizens. However, one answer consistently surfaced: “If I had it to do over again, I would risk more.” Don’t let fear of failure prevent you from trying new things. The saddest summary of a life contains three regrets: I could have, I might have, and I should have.

3. We cannot undo the past, but we can shape the future.

“Though you cannot go back and make a brand new start, my friend. Anyone can start from now, and make a brand new end.” Our past mistakes have real consequences that we must address. Likewise, being treated unfairly leaves us with pain that we must process through. However, we often add to the misery of previous missteps or prior mistreatment by allowing remorse or resentment to haunt our mind. Forgiving others, and showing grace to ourselves, releases us from the baggage of the past and frees us to work toward a brighter future.

Thoughts to Ponder

  • What practices do you need to build into your daily routine in the New Year in order to see your dreams become reality?
  • What risks do you need to take in 2014 to propel your career forward?
  • Who do you need to forgive so that bitterness doesn’t drag you down in the coming year?
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Be More Human

Naomi Rhode, tells a story in her speeches about visiting Zermatt, Switzerland and taking the cable car to the top of  Kleine Matterhorn. That is the peak just below the Matterhorn itself, which has a building and a ski slope up there in the clouds. I, too, have made that trek.  I rode to the top and walked through the snow to that platform high above the village below.

On the platform is a life-sized crucifix with a statue of Jesus on it, a very powerful monument, regardless of one´s religion. On the base of that cross is a plaque which is inscribed in about half a dozen languages. It says: Be More Human.

What does that mean to you?

To me it means to recognize my frailty as well as my potential for good. It means to know that I can do great harm or provide great blessings to the world during my life. It also means that I must allow for the fact that all of us are imperfect in many ways.

So that with that inspiration I might be a bit more understanding. Do a bit more good when I can. Get over the hurts and fears that hold me back. And aspire to the noblest and greatest actions that I can think of.

Be more human.

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Do the Right Thing

I have long been a fan of Fred Smith, Sr.  He is no longer with us but his thoughtful words are worth reading and absorbing them so we might be all we were intended to be.  Below is an excerpt he wrote about doing the right thing.

The integrity of a leader often is shown in the stand he/she takes for right against mistaken popular concepts. This isn’t done to be difficult, or different, but daring to be right, avoiding the temptation to jump into the downstream flow. Christian leaders search for the biblical right and wrong in each issue.

The author Chaim Potok said a true leader is never absorbed in the stream in which he swims. Scripture would say this leader is transformed, not conformed.

Our society is facing many positions that need biblical challenge and clarification. For example, relativism, alternative lifestyles, personal responsibility versus rights, acquisition and distribution of wealth, racial reconciliation, political expediency, self-love, and the power of peer pressure.

Values and ethics have become a hot subject almost to the point of being a cultural fad. Think tanks embrace the topic; philanthropists contribute great sums for research; universities endow chairs to study the subject; and writers produce piles of best-selling volumes. However, they generally ignore the biblical imperatives, leaving the study to human behavior.

At a Norman Vincent Peale conference on “values-based leadership,” I listened to top experts discuss the topic. I had no disagreement with their illustrations and points. However, when I spoke, I told the audience we need to root our human values in divine virtues. If we do not put down deep biblical roots, we end up controlled by our human desires which are variable due to our selfish interests.

True authenticity requires an ethical system founded in biblical virtues which have not been humanly manufactured, but discovered because they were given by God. Our authority needs to come from outside ourselves.

Newton did not create the law of gravity – he observed and codified it. Just so, we cannot create true virtue – but only discover it and make it the foundation for our values.

This week consider: 1) How are my values influenced by the culture? 2) What challenges my ethics in my work, in my home? 3) When does my thinking get fuzzy about biblical values?

Words of Wisdom: “If we do not put down deep biblical roots, we end up controlled by our human desires which are variable due to our selfish interests.”

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A Calming Reminder of God’s Presence During Challenging Times

Jim Hinch (Author)

How a small moment on the subway is helping me trust God during the Covid-19 pandemic.

I live in New York City, an epicenter of the Coronavirus outbreak. My family and I have a lot to worry about. We are sheltering at home. School is closed. Businesses are closed. The city’s normally unruly streets are eerily quiet. Thousands of miles away, my mom is similarly locked down in an assisted living facility in California. My wife Kate’s mom is in the same situation in Seattle.

One thing that helps keep me calm is a memory. It’s something that happened just a few weeks ago, back when I still rode the subway to work and Kate and I still held out hope that we’d get to take the kids on a long-planned, long-looked-forward-to trip to London. That feels like another lifetime.

I was riding home on the subway, already anxious about the Coronavirus’s steady advance toward New York. I was reading, trying to focus on something besides worry. Just before the doors closed at the 14th Street station, a man stepped aboard and said in a loud voice, “Good afternoon, everyone, pardon the interruption.”

I didn’t look up from my book. Homeless or mentally unstable people board the subway all the time and loudly tell their stories before asking for money. New Yorkers tune it all out.

Beautiful chords began playing on a guitar. “I just want to wish everyone a blessed day,” the new passenger said before launching into a soaring rendition of Michael W. Smith’s praise song “Open the Eyes of My Heart.”

His voice rang out in the hushed car: “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. Open the eyes of my heart. I want to see you.” And then the chorus, even louder: “To see you high and lifted up, shining in the light of your glory. Pour out your power and love as we sing holy, holy, holy.”

The train neared the next stop and the singer lingered on those last words, repeating them over and over: “Holy, holy, holy.”

I lowered my book, closed my eyes and rested my forehead on my hand clutching the bar in front of me. I wanted to cry. All of my anxiety evaporated in that song, swept away by those words: “Holy, holy, holy.”

The train stopped. “Blessings to you all,” the singer called out. “God loves you, have a great day.” He stepped off and disappeared into the crowd.

Now, at home, when I feel myself starting to freak out, I play that song. I remember that moment of unexpected grace. And I remember something that is true no matter how bad things feel: God is here. God is at work even if we’re too anxious to see it.

Open the eyes of your heart. Trust me, you’ll see. 

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Lead by Example, You Can’t Avoid It

Naomi Rhode, a past president of the National Speakers Association, says in an intentional double-negative, “You can’t not lead by example.” In other words, succeed or fail, try or neglect, care or don’t…you are always influencing others via your example. We say to children, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Then they do as we do instead of as we say they should. They follow our examples more often than our words. There are many ways to inspire others through our actions:

We can do as we wish others would do. We can show them simple steps to follow to win. We can believe in them more than they believe in themselves. We can describe the future possibilities in vivid stories. We can pose provocative questions like, “What could happen if you merely did this?”

We can challenge them to stretch their thinking and reach for bigger possibilities. We can point out strengths they don’t know they have. We can coach and counsel them as they grow. We can introduce them to great ideas, books, teachers and sources of information. We can be their friend even when they are not noticeably succeeding. We can refuse to tolerate laziness, negligence, or low standards of behavior in them or us. We can appeal to their desire to be a better person. We can remind them that pain, fear and disappointment are simply momentary steps on the road to success. We can nudge them and remind them of the good things they could do or achieve.

We can show them how their behavior has value to others, that they matter in the world. We can point out better ways for them to apply their talents and be of greater service to others. There are many ways to inspire others and all of them have their time and place. The beauty of this is that as we do these things for others, we inspire ourselves as well.

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