Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Job Anybody Could Do (But Nobody Did)

Even though I'm a writer, I've come to realization that action is FAR more important than words. That is to say, it is better to act then to merely talk of acting. If you think there is a job to be done, then you better roll up your sleeves and get to work because chances are... everyone else will just talk about getting it done.

Ten years ago, I had a teacher read this little story to our class. It took me a while to find it, but I'm glad I did. I hope it inspires you to work.
This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Hope for Resistance?

Opposition is a curious thing. We frequently lament and complain about the presence of opposition in our lives, yet opposition—or resistance—is the only force by which we can improve our lives.

While on a drive across the country, I was listening to The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. The Boys in the Boat is the remarkable story of the University of Washington’s eight-oar crew and their quest for gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. About a third of the way through the book, I heard a profound quote about resistance and how it actually supports us:
It is hard to make that boat go as fast as you want to. The enemy, of course, is resistance of the water, as you have to displace the amount of water equal to the weight of men and equipment, but that very water is what supports you and that very enemy is your friend. So is life: the very problems you must overcome also support you and make you stronger in overcoming them. (George Yeoman Pocock)
We talk of heroes like Winston Churchill, George Washington, Nelson Mandela—and so many others—and glorify them because of their accomplishments. But their accomplishments were made possible by the resistance they encountered. Who would Winston Churchill be without World War II? Who would George Washington be without the Revolutionary War? Who would Nelson Mandela be without the struggle against Apartheid?

It should be noted, however, that encountering resistance doesn't automatically make us stronger. It is our determination to struggle against that resistance—to overcome our challenges—that makes us stronger. If we are to overcome our challenges, then we need to develop a certain measure of determination and grit—which, incidentally, is the next book on my list.

Strangely enough, if we want to move forward in life we should not only expect resistance but hope for it—for resistance is the only thing that can make us stronger.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

With Strong and Active Faith

Franklin D. Roosevelt
It's been a long time since I've written (or done) much of anything. I've reached a crossroads in my life—two distinct paths have opened up to me: one appeals to my wandering soul, while the other requires a great deal of persistence and hard work.

One path would be a comfortable road for me—while the other would be extremely uncomfortable. There are voices (in the world and within myself) that would urge me to take the comfortable road. "Do what makes you happy," the voices would say. "Follow your bliss." As nice as that sounds, I feel compelled to reject those voices. I have sat, quite comfortably, at the crossroads for a long time and I can tell you that comfort isn't happiness. Fulfillment is a product of labor. Joy comes after the exercise faith.

I recently finished watching the Ken Burns documentary on the Roosevelts. I was struck by how much each of the Roosevelts (Teddy, Eleanor, FDR), successful as they were, struggled with depression and heartache. As each episode detailed their secret struggles, I marveled at how each of them found the strength to persist—to move forward.

I was particularly inspired by Franklin D. Roosevelt, who, after being crippled by Polio at age 39, was able to tap into an inner faith that led him onward. He became the President of the United States and led the nation through the Great Depression and on to victory against Nazi Germany. Any way you look at it, his story is absolutely remarkable.

A few days before FDR's death, he worked on a speech—which he never delivered. Those words have become known as Roosevelt's last words—and they're a testament to the kind of life he lived. Here is the final part of that speech:
Today, as we move against the terrible scourge of war—as we go forward toward the greatest contribution that any generation of human beings can make in this world- the contribution of lasting peace, I ask you to keep up your faith. I measure the sound, solid achievement that can be made at this time by the straight edge of your own confidence and your resolve. And to you, and to all Americans who dedicate themselves with us to the making of an abiding peace, I say: 
The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith.
We often refer to Roosevelt's generation of Americans as "the Greatest Generation." I think we do that because of how they moved forward with faith even though everything seemed to suggest that the world was collapsing around them (the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and World War II).

I have many reasons to doubt myself and to search for an easier road. But after reading Roosevelt's words, I feel compelled to move forward with strong and active faith.

Perhaps you, too, are searching the strength to move forward. I urge you to continue onward. The road may be hard, but the reward of faith is great. Hellen Keller put it this way: "Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved."

FDR's last, undelivered speech.