By Babatunde Jose
Today’s New Year admonition is taken from our book, Reflections on Juma’at Greetings.
At some point in the various journeys, we embark on in our lives, we get to a point where we feel like giving up. On such occasions, everything just goes wrong, and we contemplate giving up or quitting the race. Sometimes we give up before we even start and other times, we give up just before we are about to make that huge breakthrough that we have been putting so much effort in to achieve. Seth Godin in his book, titled “The Dip” a compelling read, which teaches that at any given time you are always just a heartbeat away from success. The temptation to give up is a common one, and nobody is exempt. Failure is not something many of us can handle gracefully. And even though we know it is a common human condition, we are somehow always surprised when it happens to us. Reminding yourself that loss of hope is temporary might just compel you to pick yourself up and move forward. You are also enjoined to match your efforts with an unshakeable faith and trust in God, who crowns all effort as all work and no faith could be tantamount to fail. Let me remind you that courage does not always roar. In the words of Mary Anne Radmacher, American author and artist, sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow ‘; A Japanese proverb says, ‘fall seven times and stand up eight; ‘It’s not that I’m so smart’, said Albert Einstein, ‘it’s just that I stay with problems longer’; and Thomas Edison went on to say, many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. He should know, it took him several failures before he invented the electric bulb; we learnt from Henry Ford that, ‘failure is only the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently’; in the same vein, B.F Skinner, an American psychologist said, ‘a failure is not always a mistake, it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances’. ‘The real mistake is to stop trying’; Dr. Steve Maraboli, the author, said ‘As I look back on my life, I realize that every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being redirected to something better’, which is very true; success therefore, as Robert Collier said ‘is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out’, which really is perseverance; Confucius concurred with this statement when he also said that, ‘It does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop; many of us confuse a single defeat with a final defeat , said Scott Fitzgerald, the American Author; but as Newt Gingrich said ‘Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did’ ; that perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20 said Julie Andrews , the film and stage actress of the ‘Sound of Music’ fame; through perseverance many people win success out of what seemed destined to be certain failure said Benjamin Disraeli, British politician and writer ; but Dale Carnegie put it more succinctly when he said, “Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest steppingstones to success; Leigh Mitchell Hodges, journalist and poet now said,’ failure is often that early morning hour of darkness which precedes the dawning of the day of success’; which is what Hannibal, the Carthaginian General who crossed the Alps with an army of Elephants to wage war on Rome, actually did, when he said, “We will either find a way or make one”. He ‘made a way’, because he reached the gates of Rome; late Nelson Mandela gave the clincher, when he said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” And he did It; and really, ‘a winner is just a loser who tried one more time’ said George M. Moore Jr. (1862-1940), Member U.S. House of Representatives; Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States, said,’ courage is not having the strength to go on; it is going on when you don’t have the strength’; while “Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure’, said George Edward Woodberry, American poet; Confucius says again that ‘the man who moves a mountain, begins by carrying away small stones’, which is very true; And Abraham Lincoln said, “I am a slow walker, but I never walk backwards”; according to Winston Churchill, Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.
To achieve success in life, you have to stay alive and believe that ‘anything is possible. The only valid excuse you must give up is if you are dead. If you are alive you have the choice to keep trying until you finally succeed. You also must be realistic: The chance of mastering something the first time you do it is almost non-existent. Everything takes time to learn and you will make mistakes. Learn from them. Michael Jordan arguably the best basketball player of all time, attributes his success to all his failures. He just never gave up even when he knew he had missed over 300 shots and had missed the winning shot of the game many times. Every time he got knocked down, he got back up again.
Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with cancer that had spread throughout his entire body. Against all odds, he overcame the cancer and set out to win the Tour de France six consecutive times. Muhammad Ali was one of the best boxers the world has ever known. He suffered only five crushing losses while having 56 wins and was the first boxer to win the lineal heavyweight championship three times. This is a guy who literally knows how to get knocked down and get back up. The man who created ‘The Marathon’, long ago, an Athenian herald, was sent to Sparta to get help when the Persians landed in Greece. It was said that he ran 240km in 2 days and after that he ran 40km to announce the victory of the Greeks, only to collapse and die on the spot from exhaustion. Don’t try that because you might die from it but use it as an inspiration. Nelson Mandela campaigned for justice and freedom in South Africa. He spent 20 years in jail for his opposition to apartheid. He called it a ‘Long Walk to Freedom’. And indeed, it is usually a long walk to success, no short cut.
Do not forget, you are stronger than you think. One little setback is not enough to stop you from achieving your goals. Neither are 10 or 100 or 1000 setbacks. Prove yourself; you do not want to be known as a quitter. Go out there and prove yourself to the world and to yourself. You CAN and WILL achieve what you set out to do. The only time you fail is when you give up. Believe in your dreams, and do not sell yourself short. In life there are going to be many people who will try to bring you down and tell you what you want to achieve is not possible. Do not let anyone destroy your dreams. Let the people you love and who mean the world to you be your inspiration to persist and persevere. Maybe you need to try a different angle, study more or practice more but do not ever, ever give up! There are many people who are in a worse situation and environment than you are right now. Are you thinking about giving up running 5 miles a week? Think about the people who are unable to even walk and how much they would give to be able to run 5 miles every day. When you achieve whatever you set out to achieve you can use your success to make a difference to the world or other people’s lives. Face your fears and do not take the easy way out by giving up.
There will always be haters. There will always be plenty of naysayers and people who try to tear you down. Do not pay attention to them and do not take what they say to heart. Let the haters hate but keep believing in yourself. Do not ever let anybody tell you otherwise. You deserve to be happy and you deserve to have success. Keep that mindset and never give up until you reach your destination!
My late father said, ‘I believe that the price of success can only be paid for in the currency of hard work’. This, he drummed into my ears throughout my school days. That should be the motto of your life. It was Solomon who wrote, ‘Do you know a hard-working man? He shall be successful and stand before kings!’ (Proverbs 22:29).
Success is always a possibility, but never a guarantee. It belongs to the man or woman who is willing to show up early, stay late, go the extra mile, and keep asking, ‘Is there a better way?‘ UCB Word for Today.
A young man once asked Henry Ford, ‘How can I make a name for myself and be successful?’ He replied, ‘Decide what you want, then stick with it. Never deviate from your course no matter how long it takes or how hard the road, until you’ve accomplished your purpose.’ Successful people have one thing in common: they refuse to quit! No matter how many times they fall, they get back up, dust themselves off, learn from it, and start over. Paul J. Meyer said, ‘Ninety-nine per cent of those who fail are not actually defeated, they simply quit.’ The Bible says, ‘To win…you must deny yourselves… things that…keep you from doing your best’ (1 Corinthians 9:25). Finally, all efforts must be rooted on an unshakeable trust and reliance in God. For, after all said and done, it is His Grace that guarantees the success of our labor. We are told in the good books that all efforts without the Grace of God will come to naught. Hence, I enjoin you to, “Commit thy works unto the Lord.” Allah in the Quran promises that anyone who commits his work unto Him: And He provides for him from (sources) he never could imagine. And if anyone puts his trust in Allah, sufficient is (Allah) for him. For Allah will surely accomplish His purpose: Verily, for all things has Allah appointed a due proportion (Quran, 65:3.)
There is no contradiction in working hard and believing and placing one’s trust in Allah. Rather, those who have trust do not abandon material resources, the ‘tying of the camel’, as it were. We all know the Hadith in which the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said to the Bedouin who had left his camel unsecured, to ‘tie your camel and place your trust in Allah’. What the statement implies is that you should make effort, Allah will not tie your camel for you, lest it run away.
Barka Juma’at and a Happy New Year