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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

What do you want to be remembered for?


What matters isn't being applauded when you arrive—for that is common—but being missed when you leave.—Baltasar Gracian
Newspaper columnist David Brooks wrote a book called The Road to Character. In it he talks about the difference between 'resume virtues' vs. 'eulogy virtues.' In other words, what are people going to say about you when you're gone?

People won't comment on your business prowess or your bank account. Nobody is going to say how good-looking or clever you were. But they will talk about the decency you had and the kindness you showed others. 

It's hard to think about eulogy virtues while we're here. Life is tough. It's a scramble to survive.

But this life is going to end.

Not to be morbid but yeah, it's going to end. Then when it does, what do you want to be remembered for?

Billy Casper, one of the greatest golfers of all time, winner of the U.S. Open and Masters, was interviewed shortly before his death in February 2015. Reading the article you got the feeling that the interviewer was so impressed with Casper's golfing career, and when he asked what Casper wanted to be remembered for, he suggested this golfing feat or that great golfing victory. But Casper surprised.

He said he didn't want to be remembered for any of that. He wanted to be remembered for being a lover of humanity.

So what do you want to be remembered for? If you can figure that out now, you can live in a way that brings that desire to pass.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Is endurance the secret to success?

I have only to endure. I am here to be worked upon.
          —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ever feel like a punching bag? That life is just one blow after another? Can it be that we're the victims of some sadistic higher power that is continually punishing us, torturing us?

I admit that sometimes that's the way it feels, but I think there's something far deeper occurring. I think, like Emerson said, something is working on us. Something is shifting, shaping, changing us into more than we were. And hence our job is just to endure. To ride out the changes to get to the other side of the trials.

But yes, you have to break through to get the benefits. Consider this from Chin-Ning Chu's Thick Face, Black Heart.
...the true nature of crisis is an opportunity in disguise....It is within the process of endurance that opportunity reveals itself. Opportunity always exists within a crisis situation, but when we lose heart in a devastating crisis, we are blinded by our own emotion. When we can calmly endure the unendurable, the opportunity for a better alternative surfaces and reveals itself.
Think of when a parent loses a child. The natural temptation would be to blank out, to deaden (perhaps through alcohol or depression) being conscious. The pain is just too great. But if a person in such a terrible situation can somehow stay conscious through all that pain they often come out as utterly remarkable people. As the saying goes: 'Pain can make us bitter or better.'

Look at the life of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. As a young politician many thought him smug and overbearing. A pain in the butt really. Then at thirty-nine he suffered polio and its accompanying paralysis. For years he tried to regain use of his legs.

Years later, when he was president, someone enquired how he managed to stay so patient facing the incredible pressure of the presidency and he said:

After trying for two years to wiggle one big toe, all else seems easy.

So, are times tough? Just hang in there. You don't have to conquer them to win through to the reward. You only have to endure.