Life isn’t the way it is supposed to be. It just is.
One of the most prominent figures of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s was William Jennings Bryan. He was known by almost everyone in America as a presidential candidate as well as one of the finest orators they had ever heard. Bryan said, “Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved.”
He was so right! One of the greatest, most powerful tools you have in your possession is the power to choose. You can choose to make something of yourself, or you can choose to sit on your butt. You can choose to use your God-given talents, or you can complain about the fact you don’t have more talent. You can choose to be happy or unhappy.
Unfortunately, I come across an awful lot of people who don’t use their power to choose — or at the very least, they don’t choose wisely. They muddle through life, avoiding choice, hoping things will work out. Or they somehow think life isn’t fair; it isn’t the way it is supposed to be, so why bother.
Highly successful people, on the other hand, make deliberate choices. And their choices lead to lives of quality and careers of achievement.
I remember meeting a couple at one of my Peak Performance Boot Camps. They had recently lost their little boy. “It was all so sudden,” the mother told me. “One moment Michael was in the house eating lunch, and the next moment he was hit by a car while he was riding his bike.”
I asked how long ago the accident happened. She replied, “Eight weeks ago.”
I told them they seemed to be handling the tragedy rather well, considering how recently it had occurred. So I asked them, “What’s your secret?”
The husband responded, “It would have been very easy to let our son’s death destroy our family. We all loved him so much. But we have three younger children, and we didn’t want to hang a cloud over their heads that might last forever. So we all chose to talk about Michael’s death and how our family could grow stronger. We chose not to be defeated by this tragedy.”
They had used their power to choose. And there is no situation or circumstance you will ever face in life in which a choice does not exist. You will always have a choice, and your choices will determine the outcomes of your life.
Bill Gates, the famous or infamous founder of Microsoft, talked about “real life” in a speech he gave to Mt. Whitney High School in Visalia, California. He told them they had been fed a lot of “feel-good,” “politically correct” teachings that would lead them to their demise. He urged them to “choose” a different set of beliefs.
Gates urged them to follow the 11 rules found in Charles Sykes’ book, Dumbing Down Our Kids. I think the eleven rules are worth quoting. He takes the notion of “life isn’t what it’s supposed to be” and basically says, “Get over it. Choose a new set of beliefs and a new set of behaviors based on what works in the real world.”
Here are the 11 rules — along with my commentary.
“Rule 1: Life is not fair — get used to it!”
Joyce Landorf is a good example of this. Despite the fact she is the author of more than twenty books, an accomplished singer, and a radio show host — and despite the fact her life has been devoted to inspiring others — Joyce is in almost constant pain.
She suffers from a disease of the jaw. The pain is so excruciating at times that she can barely function. Of course she would give almost anything to be free of the pain, but she chooses to keep on helping others. And thousands could testify to the fact that her work has greatly enriched their lives.
Considering all the good Joyce has done, her illness seems terribly unfair. But life isn’t fair. She’s gotten used to it, and she has chosen to live a great life despite it. Can you say as much?
“Rule 2: The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.”
I wish it were otherwise, but I think Gates is right. Not that many people care about how you feel, but a lot of people care about what you do.
You can choose to be upset about that, or you can choose to do something. And that’s not all bad. One of the quickest ways to build your self-esteem is to build your skills. Competence leads to confidence.
You can choose to prove yourself — like one young man in Germany. At age 15, a teacher told his parents it was a waste of time to send their son to school. He was just plain dull and stupid.
He did stay in school, but he graduated at the bottom of his class. Later he was hired as a tutor in a boys’ school and fired some six months later. He was “inadequate,” they said. He lived in poverty, without a great deal of self-esteem, passing his time dabbling in mathematics.
By the age of 26, however, he developed the theories that led to television and worldwide communications. And he clarified the very structures of the universe. Albert Einstein learned to do something first. He didn’t sit around and wait for people to care about his self-esteem.
“Rule 3: You will not make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice president with a car phone until you earn both.”
Now that’s a sobering piece of reality — but it’s one that needs to be absorbed. The world won’t hand you the best in life. You have to earn it.
I remember an interview with Pete Jackson, the captain of the luxury liner, the Queen Elizabeth II. When he was asked how long he’d been working at sea, Captain Jackson replied, “Forty-five years. I started in the engine room of a freighter, shoveling coal.”
“But,” the interviewer said, “now you’re the captain of the greatest cruise ship afloat. How do you explain your success?”
“Desire and dedication. I love ships and the sea. I was utterly dedicated to being a sailor. It was one of the most important things in my life,” said the Captain.
In other words, he was saying hard work precedes success. It has to be earned. It is not bestowed.
I know that to be true. I’ve been studying peak performance for 30 years, and I’ve learned that success comes over time. It is not instantaneous. In fact, be careful of those who make such claims.
But I’ve also learned that incredible success is entirely possible, and success can come an awful lot quicker if you approach it the right way.
That’s why I offer my two-day Peak Performance Boot Camp — to equip you with all the tools you need to be more successful than ever before. And that’s why you should sign up for my Peak Performance Boot Camp.
That’s three of Gates’ eleven rules. Come back the next two weeks for the other eight.
Action: How do you respond when life is unfair? Do you whine or shine! Do you talk on and on about how unfair life is? Or do you draw on your resources to make the best of a difficult situation?
The next time you think life is unfair, I challenge you to stop talking and start doing. List five things you can do about your situation, and then do them.