As we turn the corner into 2015, a lot of people will be making new resolutions and dusting off old ones. We’ll resolve to finally write that book, lose those extra pounds, and work harder at our marriages. But all too often, our earnestness is labored. We’ve made these promises before and what has come of them? Why will this year be any different? Sometimes looking at the disappointments and repeated failures of successful people can help us to get a reality check when we’re feeling defeated.
We’ve all heard the stories of people who’ve persevered through thick and thin, finally making it after beating the odds by the longest shot imaginable. Colonel Sanders offered his chicken recipe to how many people before somebody took the proverbial bite? Henry Ford’s early businesses failed and left him broke five times. Stephen Spielberg was rejected from University of Southern California Film School three times, Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, Claude Monet and Vincent VanGogh were rejected and ridiculed for their artwork, andRudyard Kipling was fired from his job as a writer at the San Francisco Examiner; his editor told him he just didn’t know how to use the English language. Walt Disney was also fired by a newspaper editor—for his supposed lack of imagination and good ideas. The list goes on and on.
Of course, real goals are not achieved by merely siphoning encouragement from inspiring accounts and redoubling our efforts. Life is more complicated than that. Obstacles get in the way, forces outside of our control take over, self-doubt cripples. In the end, things don’t usually turn out the way we imagine they will. The good news is they usually turn out better—after our definition of success gets realigned.
It’s easy to read stories about people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, who dropped out of college and went on to do amazing things, and fall into faulty negative thinking: No kidding they made it; they were geniuses. I’m nothing like them. That could never happen to me. Only God knows if we will succeed the way we want or if we will ever see the fruition of our hard work. Whatever happens, there is beauty, dignity, purpose, and genuine reward in the process. The Bible teaches us to “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer,” (Rom. 12:12 NIV). This is easier said than done, of course, but our job as Christians is to be persistent in obeying His call on our lives. When we do this, the work we do counts for eternity, rather than for the fleeting moment. Ultimately, this is the only way to find fulfillment in our journey.
Thinking on these truths offers deeper encouragement than do the success stories of the rich and famous. Still, picturing the world’s greatest artists overcoming the condescending rejection of their superiors does somehow make me feel better.