One of my favorite quotes is by author Richard Bach, who once wrote, “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” It resonates with me because people often think of successful people as ‘lucky’, as in ‘he/she catches all of the breaks’, when in fact their so-called luck is really about the hard work and preparation that came before the break. Still, as almost any ‘successful’ person will attest, hard work and preparation are never enough.
Success not only requires vision, leadership, connection and teamwork; it not only demands that we become life long learners, honing our skills in preparation for opportunities which lie before or ahead of us; but success, perhaps above all else, requires tenacity. Success requires a commitment to one’s vision and a resolve to see it through, no matter what life might throw in the way.
On every journey towards a dream, the path is paved with potholes, road bumps and detours. But almost anything worth doing…any dream worth pursuing…requires hard work; it also requires a resolve to stay in the game, to stay focused, and to push forward. It is not a question of if there will be detours and distractions, setbacks and roadblocks. There will be. Often. It’s what we do under these circumstances that makes all of the difference.
This morning I awoke to disappointing news. News of a roadblock on my personal journey. News of a challenge. News that for a moment, took the wind out of my sails and the song out of my heart. For about 30 minutes, a really solid 30 minutes, I felt sorry for myself. I was disappointed, angry and frustrated, but disappointed above all else. Worse still, I could think of nothing I could say or do that might make a difference. Thirty long minutes of dashed hope. And then? Then I got a grip. Then I got a hold of my emotions, refocused, and thought about my journey. What had really changed, after all? A door is only a door. A path is only a path. There will always be more than one door and more than one path. I needn’t take it personally. Why should one setback alter my course?
In that moment, as I tried to turn this news into a teaching moment for my children as I drove them off to school, my mind flashed back to a time when I once spoke to a group of high school seniors about finding their voice and feeding their passion. The students and I had spent a great deal of time talking about motivation, tenacity, and resolve. I asked them, “how does the word ‘no’ make you feel?” “Do you give up easily or do negative words fuel your resolve?” “What motivates you to push through challenges?” Then I shared a personal story. It was the true story of how one of the world’s largest corporations once told me “no” when I approached them about supporting a cause near and dear to my heart. Despite my best preparation, despite the favorable connections that enabled me to first open that dialogue (the so-called ‘lucky break’), the conversation did not go well. Not by any stretch of the imagination. I was disappointed, angry and frustrated…angry above all else, and for much longer than my 30 uncomfortable minutes this morning.
For two weeks you could not get near me. I was radioactive with fury, and then something wonderful happened. “No” did not de-motivate me. “No” did not cause me to shrink my vision and give up. Instead, “no” only fueled my dream, lighting a fire-in-my-belly like none other…one that not only led to this company’s subsequent commitment to my cause, but to a larger community engagement – one that has had a far-reaching ripple effect, perhaps none of it possible had I not first been told “no.” Of course it did not happen overnight and it did not happen by itself. It required a deeper level of commitment to the cause, including personal sacrifice; it required a willingness to push forward and stay committed to the vision, regardless of obstacles along the way.
Dreams test our resolve. They test our commitment. They test our strength and our character and our willingness to stay the course. Sometimes these tests – whether a “no,” whether a failure, or whether a closed-door; sometimes these setbacks are the very catalysts which ultimately enable our dreams to come true.
How have your dreams been tested along the way? Do you shrink in the face of challenge, or rise to the occasion? How have the obstacles along life’s way shaped your larger vision? What tests your resolve to stay the course? How hard will you work, how much are you willing to sacrifice, and how committed are you to following the dreams of your heart?