On a late Saturday afternoon, traffic crawled towards the congested, narrow intersection in the large metropolis. Pedestrians zigzagged through the lanes. Lines of cars were pulling out of one of the busiest shopping malls, adding a strain to the already overcrowded junction. With no traffic lights or traffic controllers around, the traffic quickly became deadlocked.
Fred was 19 when our paths crossed—a troubled ambitious youth in search of purpose. After leaving home as a teenager, he’d tried many different ways to make a living and had unfortunately made some wrong choices along the way; but there was much potential for change, and Fred was blessed with numerous talents and the willingness to learn.
I have a hard time defining success, specifically when it comes to my work. It seems like any enterprise that gets 40+ hours of my life each week should be setting me up for tangible success. There should be promotion, challenge, and a sense of pride and accomplishment. But what if there isn’t? What if you feel pretty much invisible at work; no one is recognizing you, let alone promoting you? Does that mean you’re not succeeding? If success isn’t measured by achievements, then how is it measured?
I’ve been watching the TV series The X Factor, in which singers across the United States participate in a talent show contest where the winner will be awarded a multimillion-dollar recording contract. For those unfamiliar with the show, in each episode the judges choose who will move on to the next level in the competition, based on talent, of course! But there’s another trait that they’re also looking for. They want someone reliable.
All the performances of human art, at which we look with praise or wonder, are instances of the resistless force of perseverance: it is by this that the quarry becomes a pyramid, and that distant countries are united with canals. If a man was to compare the effect of a single stroke of the pickaxe, or of one impression of the spade, with the general design and last result, he would be overwhelmed by the sense of their disproportion; yet those petty operations, incessantly continued, in time surmount the greatest difficulties, and mountains are levelled, and oceans bounded, by the slender force of human beings.
—Samuel Johnson (1709–1784)
Life is hard sometimes.
When you’ve worked as hard as you possibly could and yet you failed to make the grade, your dreams remain out of reach, and you feel you just can’t do it anymore, you can feel like giving up.
All of us have probably felt that way at some time or another. Maybe you’ve been in that situation recently. In fact, maybe you feel that way right now.
We may not all have the same definition of success, but who doesn’t want to be successful? And rightly so. The desire for comfort and security and the yearning for meaning and fulfillment in life are inborn and universal. Why then do so many people seem to settle for less? Why don’t they pursue their goals more actively? There are several reasons, but I think this excerpt from an article I came across exposes one of the most common:
Reading the blogs of other people fighting debt helps me keep my resolve in focused debt reduction. As I browse articles that relate to where we’re at in our journey out of debt, I often sift out those to do with investments and savings. There is an overlap between writings on the subject of debt reduction and those on the subject of wealth building, and while I’m 100% in when it comes to eliminating debt, I struggle with the concept of building wealth. Where I associate debt reduction with becoming responsible, exercising discipline, and cleaning up my act, I have tended to associate wealth building exclusively with greed and selfishness.