It took John Maxwell 200 pages; Winston Churchill took seven words to say the same thing. John Maxwell wrote a NYT best-seller, Failing Forward, in which he explains and illustrates the blessings that await everyone who hangs in there. In the winter of his life, Winston Churchill accepted one more commencement address. The man who stared defeat at the hands of Hitler directly in the eyes and neither blinked nor backed down, slowly walked to the microphone and delivered the now famous lecture, “Never, never, never, never, never give up.”
We all know the stories: Helen Keller graduated from Radcliffe. George Patton finished next to bottom at West Point due to dyslexia. Abraham Lincoln was the most defeated politician of his era. Thomas Edison failed 2,000 times searching for a light bulb filament. Michael Jordan was cut from his junior high basketball team. Our history is chalk full of such stories of people who never quit. So why is quitting so commonplace?
Perhaps it’s because we fail to examine what was inside those who followed this rule. First and foremost, they had a dream. Call it an idea or a knowing, but they could see the result of success before they succeeded. So call this the WHY. And a dream with a big WHY always wins. As Dexter Yager put it, “When your WHY is big enough, the facts don’t matter.”
How do you grow a WHY? Combine it with a purpose so big that if you don’t make it happen, the world will be worse off. Nelson Mandela dreamed of being a South African with the same rights as any other South African. Imprisoned, beaten, abused for over 20 years, he didn’t quit. He knew that if he gave up, 15 million fellow black South Africans would never have the same opportunity. Churchill felt the same about freedom and Great Britain.
The apostle Peter knew that if he didn’t spread the gospel, millions would never know the Jesus he knew and miss out on eternal life.
OK, OK, off the mountaintop. What about losing five lbs, building the deck, going to Europe, or making vice president. All of these are doable; yet life has a way of putting enough obstacles in your path that quitting starts looking like the most “realistic” option. Here are some tips on how to implement this rule:
1) Examine the goal. I start by praying Proverbs 3:5-6 to make sure the goal is worth pursuing before I even start. If my dream is to play in the NBA, I need to make sure that is a realistic use of my talents.
2) Write it down and look at it every day. Jeremiah 31:33 instructs us that “He will write his dreams on our heart.” God created us as goal seeking creatures and allowed us to program ourselves. The most powerful program is the one we develop for ourselves. If the dream is so big that you are embarrassed to tell anyone, get EXCITED. Those are the ones that are worth pursuing.
3) Speak what you want as if you have it, not what you have as if you want it. Read it three times, and it will make sense. Most of us quit because we program ourselves with the problem over and over again and not the solution. The most powerful program we have is our self talk. Shad Helmstetter in his book, The Self Talk Solution points out that 75% of what we program in our heads is negative. Ever remember saying any of the following: I will never get that job. I am so stupid. I always mess up projects. Or That’s never going to happen. As Henry Ford put it, “If you think you can, you’re right, and if you think you can’t, you’re still right.”
What you say is what the goal seeking part of your brain pursues with a vengeance. So why not speak/program your success by speaking something like the following: I enjoy my new position, and everyone tells me I am doing a great job. People are amazed at the way I overcame my shortcomings and completed the project on time and on budget. This may feel a little hokey at first, but try it for 30 days and see what your goal seeking brain does with these “instructions.”
4) Employ the Sawyer effect. In Chapter 2 of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Tom is faced with the chore of whitewashing Aunt Polly’s 810 foot fence. Every dream comes with its own 810 foot fence. But Tom turned this work on its head by acting and speaking of this work as if it was play. The impact was immediate and as a result, Tom friend’s Ben moved from a mocker to a willing participant. The Sawyer Effect, as coined by Dan Pink in his book, Drive, is the practice that turns work into play or play into work. Think of Paul Newman in the movie, Cool Hand Luke. Again he turned an activity designed to break his spirit into a game and soon everyone wanted to “play.”
So when you hit a roadblock on your way to your dream, think of young Tom Sawyer. Close your eyes and think of a game or song that puts you in a playful mood. Design a little contest or start self talking your way into how much fun this chore will be. Remember the question a friend asked me that relates to these roadblocks, “In the shower, do you sing because you’re happy, or are you happy because you sing?”
One caveat on the Sawyer Effect: The opposite can happen when you turn play into work. I love running and swimming. But when I started scheduling these activities so tightly and measuring the results very precisely, I lost the joy that started me working out in the first place. So play at your work and leave it at that!