When you feel like walking, you need to keep on working.
The great violinist Paganini was performing before a most distinguished audience. Suddenly, one of the strings on his violin snapped. The audience gasped, but the master musician continued unruffled to play on the three remaining strings.
Snap! A second string broke. Still Paganini played without hesitation. Then, with a sharp crack, a third string broke! The audience now became awestruck. For a brief moment, the artist stopped, raised his famous Stradivarius violin high, and with one hand announced, “One string — and Paganini.”
With outstanding skill and the matchless discipline of a gifted craftsman, he finished the selection on a single string. His performance was flawless, and the audience gave him a tumultuous standing ovation.
There will be times in your life when one string after another will snap. And you will go through circumstances that could disappoint and discourage you to the point of giving up. But you don’t have to give up. As I wrote in last week’s “Tuesday Tip,” “The happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything.”
The happiest people also keep on working when they feel like walking. They keep on building when they feel like bailing. In other words, they refuse to let their feelings take over. They just keep on doing what needs to be done when the tough times come.
The first thing they do is STAY CALM. That’s how Tom Edison did it. On a freezing night in December of 1914, he was financially strapped as he worked on his ten-year project to build a storage battery. Someone shouted, “Fire,” and within moments his entire manufacturing plant was in flames. Fire companies came from eight towns, but the heat was so intense and the water pressure so low they could not put out the flames.
When Edison’s son couldn’t find his father, he was concerned. Was he safe? With all of his assets destroyed, would his spirit be broken?
Soon he saw his father running towards him. “Where’s Mom?” shouted Edison. “Go get her, son. Tell her to hurry up and bring her friends. They’ll never see a fire like this again.”
The next morning, Edison called all of his employees together and made an incredible statement. He said, “We’re rebuilding.” He told one man to lease all the machine shops in the area. He told another one to get a wrecking crane. Then, as an afterthought, he asked, “Oh, by the way, anybody here know where we can get some money?”
Later Edison explained, “We can always make capital out of a disaster. We’ve just cleared out a bunch of old rubbish. We’ll build bigger and better on the ruins.” Then he yawned, rolled up his coat for a pillow, curled up on a table, and immediately fell asleep.
Edison stayed calm. I’m sure he had some feelings of disappointment and discouragement. That seems fairly normal. But he didn’t let his feelings take over. He did what needed to be done. He stayed calm.
The happiest people also REFUSE TO USE A LOSER’S LANGUAGE. They know that words precede results. They know if they talk like a loser, they’ll end up losing. George Schultz, the former U.S. Secretary of State said, “The minute you start talking about what you’re going to do if you lose, you have lost.”
The person who will not acknowledge defeat cannot be defeated. That person is guaranteed to win in the long run. It’s a given.
It’s like the little boy who walked onto the baseball field saying, “I’m the greatest hitter in the world.” He threw up the ball, swung, missed, and said, “Strike one.” He threw up the ball again, and once more he swung and missed, and said, “Strike two.” He did that for three strikes in a row.
At that point he picked up his bat and ball. With a smile on his face, he walked off the field and said, “I’m the greatest pitcher in the world.” He refused to use the language of a loser. He only talked about winning, and so should you.
Then CONTINUE TO BELIEVE WHEN IT’S DIFFICULT TO BELIEVE. Begin telling yourself that you and God can handle your situation, whatever it is. Take on the motto of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: “The difficult we do immediately. The impossible may take a little longer.”
Motivational coach Ray Pelletier says, “If you refuse to believe it’s the end of the road for you, then you’ll instinctively and automatically find ways to go around the obstacles and resume your journey on the other side.” I know that to be true. That’s exactly the approach I took more than 30 years ago when the doctors said I wouldn’t be able to walk. I refused to believe that and have been in great shape ever since.
That was also the approach taken by William Lloyd Garrison. As a young man in the early 1800’s, he said human slavery was wrong and set out to destroy it. People laughed at him. They sneered at him. They ridiculed him and called him a fool. In fact they hated him so much they burned him in effigy.
But Garrison believed in his cause and believed in his creator. With the conviction that slavery was wrong, and with a passion that couldn’t be quenched, Garrison hurled his sledge hammer of belief against a mountain of opposition.
In the beginning, only a faint thud was heard. But Garrison continued his attack. He threw blow after blow at the mountain until a crack began to show. The crack widened, and in his fifty-eighth year human slavery was outlawed forever in this country.
Finally, despite your disappointment and discouragement, KEEP ON KEEPING ON. Don’t quit just because it’s difficult to keep going. And don’t quit just because you don’t feel like keeping on. Be careful of putting too much stock in your feelings. Feelings are a useful piece of data in any decision you make, but they should not have the final say in doing what you know you should be doing.
That’s how Muhammad Ali became great. He even said, “I hated every minute of the training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion’.”
That’s how one wise man lived his life. He tied a pot of soup to one end of a pole. As he was walking along with his earthen crock over his shoulder, the soup fell off the pole and broke into several pieces.
A stranger said to him, “Your crock is broken, and your soup is gone. Why don’t you stop and do something about it?”
“What could I possibly do?” replied the old man. “The crock is broken, and the soup is spilt. I might as well keep going.”
The next time you feel like giving up or feel like walking, stop yourself. Practice staying calm. If you have to force yourself to stay calm, do so. In your calmness you will find strength and wisdom. You’ll get a clearer idea as to what you should do next.