It is the courage to continue that counts

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“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”–Winston Churchill

I am working with a terrific young man who will be giving the valedictorian address at his high school graduation in a few weeks. It’s been fun to hear him reminisce about his early days in high school when he “didn’t care,” to realizing one day that he was just a few points behind the smartest guy at school and knowing that with a little work he could overtake him, because, as he said, no one knew he was that smart since he didn’t show it, and since school was boring to him. Well, much to the chagrin of the faculty, he is going to be the one who is on the stage.

No doubt, he did some dumb things when he was in the 9th and 10th grades (honestly, it was all I could do not to laugh at his antics), but somewhere along the way he read the quote from Winston Churchill, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts,” and it changed his life.

Why? Because he realized that failure is not fatal—it is just a learning curve you’ve got to drive through at some point in your life. He also came to realize that the most important skill he could develop was the simple—yet hard—determination to have the courage to continue, even when all the teachers were (as he says) not too impressed with him; frankly, many are not happy to have him on the stage now, but the grade point average doesn’t lie, and he is the one who made it to the top.

I’m not going to let him say anything unkind about the teachers he didn’t like, nor am I going to let him be a smart aleck. What I am going to do is push him to be bigger than life to those who are sitting in his audience thinking that they will never get out of their small town. In fact, I am going to have him remind the hundreds of other kids that, unlike what so many people say to them about life, the simple fact is this, You don’t need to find a purpose; you need to choose one.

You don’t need to find a purpose; you need to choose one.

And that is my thought for today, along with the quote from Winston Churchill. Friends, many of you listening today need to consider the truth that…You don’t need to find a purpose; you need to choose one…and get going.

I work with a lot of people who waste a lot of time looking for their purpose in life, but it will lead you down some dead-end roads if you’re not careful. People write books about it, preachers preach sermons about it and TV talk show doctors will drone on about it for hours on end, but the truth is hard and, frankly, many people don’t want to hear it. Looking and looking and looking seems like fun, until you get to the end of your life and realize you were looking at it all along, but in your quest for something more exciting, more daring, more impressive in your eyes, you missed the opportunity staring you in the face.

Now, to be fair, occasionally you will find your purpose by being in the right place at the right time, but that is a very small portion of the world audience, because most people who are successful chose a purpose and then committed themselves to it for the long haul, and that is why they are successful today.

My young client and I have had the conversation that people often will tell you that a single success can cause you to be “set for life” or that a single mistake can “ruin you for life.” But that is not true, and any thinking person will come to understand that it is rare when you win the lottery of life and are “set for life,” or it is rare that you make such a big mistake that will haunt you for the rest of your life. Now, no doubt, TV has told us about both types of people, and you may know one or two who have lived this out in real time, but the fact is that life is ever-changing and your job is to find your place and purpose and thrive where you’re planted.

When I say, thrive where your planted, I mean that you need to find a level of comfort in believing that where you are right now is where you are to be at this moment in life (either to learn a lesson that you will carry for life or learn that you will never repeat this lesson in your lifetime).

For some listening, where you are is not a good place right now—it’s okay to admit it. That is the first step to finding the light, but now what can you do to move up and out? No one is going to do it for you—unfortunately, you have to be strong enough to make the change. Remember, it is the courage to continue that counts, and when I say continue, it is not staying in the same old place doing the same old things that get you the same old dismal experience that you are working through right now. It is the moving away from the situation, whatever that looks likes for you. The courage to continue is the courage to make changes in your life—big and small—but change for the better, for your purpose, for your life.

And just an aside for those of you who are people of faith: Don’t blame God for the mistakes you’ve made. Put some sweat to your prayers and feet to your mission and do what you are called to do, understanding that your journey of faith is most likely not easy but necessary for the perfecting of your faith.

I want to return to the statement that many people seem to hope for, that a single success can cause you to be “set for life” or the false belief that a single mistake can “ruin you for life.”

My theme this month of April is saying, yes, to any opportunity that comes along, however big or small, and I want you to remember (and hopefully memorize) the Sir Richard Branson quote, If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!

My thought last week was that opportunity is everywhere if you just know where to look, and I believe that with all my heart and soul because I see it every day for people who are willing to work and be bold enough to say, Yes, and then figure out a way to make things happen.

If you listened last week to my guest, Dr. Ben Carson, his life story is one of believing that opportunity is everywhere and that it is the low hanging fruit that is yours for the taking if you will not buy into the false belief that a single mistake can “ruin you for life.”

Did you hear him say?

  • When he was younger he stabbed a kid;
  • he punched out a kid over a locker disagreement and left a 3-inch gash in his forehead;
  • he even went after his mother with a hammer (thank goodness his brother stepped in).

For most people, those actions would be the tie that binds them to their past, but Dr. Carson found forgiveness and grace and became a different person, and with that new belief in himself he overcame the mistakes of his past. Oh, I am sure we will hear about this over and over in the media in the next few months, but the fact still stands that he is considered one of the most famous neurosurgeons in the world. Dr. Carson was wise enough to know that mistakes of your past do not, will not, cannot demean your future, if you understand that Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. And he (and his brother) did not buy into the false belief that a mistake can “ruin you for life.”

Friends, please hear me today that failure is not fatal. Yes, it hurts, and it may feel like the end, but if you got up today and are breathing, then it’s not the end; in fact, if you let it, it could be the beginning of a new day, a new year—a new life for you.

I was particularly touched by Dr. Carson’s message because I see many young men and women of all races who have bought into the lie that failure is final…and I want to yell from the mountain top that it is not! It’s a lie, and don’t believe it!

It’s a lie to stop you from living your best life ever. It’s a lie to hold you down in your mind from doing your best work and being your best self. It’s a lie that is pasted down from generation to generation that “we” (whoever “we” are) cannot do what others do. It’s a lie that needs to be exposed for what it is, a self-fulfilling prophesy to keep you where you are—in the same place—with no vision of your amazing future.

Ah, friend, the saying that has survived for the ages is true, and that is: Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. And let me remind you that many of you don’t need to find a purpose; you just need to choose one…and get going

Let’s continue for your amazing success.

Deb Sofield

Deb Sofield is a Keynote Speaker, Author of the book, Speak without Fear – Rock Star Presentation Skills to get People to Hear What You Say and Encouragement For Your Life ~ Tough Love Memos to Help You Fight Your Battles and Change the World, Radio Talk Show Host in the Salem Network, Podcaster and President of her own Executive Speech Coaching Co., which trains women and men for success in speaking, crisis communications, presentation skills, media and message development in the U.S. and abroad.

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