Something about the human psyche prefers the path of least resistance, the easy way, the course that requires the smallest investment of blood, sweat and tears. But history teaches that “quick and simple” is rarely the avenue for achieving lasting success and significance.
In the realms of entertainment and art, we often hear about the “overnight success,” the person that was a virtual unknown one day whose name was on the lips of everyone the next: the breakout star of a major motion picture; a singer soaring to the top of the music charts; an author whose book gains widespread public acclaim, turning her into an instant celebrity.
But we all know that even though a person may go from being unnoticed to stardom in the blink of an eye, much effort, struggle and preparation were invested to make that “overnight success” possible.
My friend, Gary Highfield, is a great example. In his book, When “Want To” Becomes “Have To!”, Gary details a very difficult childhood, including some heart-wrenching experiences. As a young adult with a wife and three children, he had a dead-end, hourly wage job, barely scraping by. He wanted a better life for his family, and then his “want to” became “have to,” starting an ambitious self-improvement program.
Gary’s book not only tells his personal story, but also presents many of the principles and wisdom he gained over the years through hard work, determination, a refusal to quit – and the grace and timely provision of God. His path was difficult, but he refused to accept failure and the seemingly easier alternative of resigning himself to being a “victim” of his circumstances.
In the process, Gary’s career transformed from frustrating, unfulfilling manual labor to great success in sales and entrepreneurship. Today many disadvantaged people are being promised “entitlements,” but he understood his true entitlement was to utilize the talents and abilities God had built into him to realize his personal and professional goals and dreams. Today he seeks to help others in similar circumstances. The Bible speaks a lot about this, both in workplace and spiritual terms. Here are some examples:
Sufferings serve to strengthen us. Hardships can build endurance, just as years of training equip top athletes to perform at championship levels, far beyond their peers. “…but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us …” (Romans 5:3-4).
No such thing as a “quick fix.” Many people want instant success, rewards without the struggle. But often formulating a plan, even if it takes time and overcoming challenges to carry out, can serve as a reward in itself. “Steady plodding brings prosperity; hasty speculation brings poverty” (Proverbs 21:5).
Struggles shape and refine us. A caterpillar faces great difficulty escaping the cocoon after turning into a butterfly, but its struggle is rewarded as it flies majestically through the air. Similarly, hard work refines us into who and what we are to become. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:3-4).
Robert J. Tamasy is vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit organization based in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. A veteran journalist, he has written Tufting Legacies (iUniverse); Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace (River City Press); and has coauthored with David A. Stoddard, The Heart of Mentoring (NavPress). For more information, see www.leaderslegacy.com or his blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.comand www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com.
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1. Are you inclined to take the “easy way” whenever possible? Think of a time when you discovered the seemingly easiest approach was not the best. What did you learn from that?
2. Can you think of someone that overcame great adversity to accomplish great success? In your view, were they simply “lucky” or fortunate, or did they earn and deserve their noteworthy achievements? Explain your answer.
3. Is it always wise to choose the more difficult approach to a task or goal? How can one discern times when the “quick fix” is not the best solution?
4. Many in society encourage us to pursue pain-free, problem-free living. Why then should we submit to struggles and hardships when they present themselves, whether at work or in our personal lives? What, in your opinion, is a value of perseverance?
NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages:
Proverbs 3:5-6, 10:4-5, 12:24, 14:4, 14:23, 16:26, 20:24; Philippians 3:12-14