Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Wednesday Wisdom - Celebrating Hard Work, Part 1


"I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more of it I seem to have."
Source unknown, but attributed to Thomas Jefferson and to Coleman Cox
If you follow foreign soccer, you know that two of the greatest soccer players of all time currently play in Spain, competing face to face in one of the fiercest club rivalries anywhere. Lionel Messi from Argentina suits up in the "blaugrana" of FC Barcelona, while Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo wears the royal whites of arch-rival Real Madrid. When these two superstars and their respective teams go head to head in "El Clásico," it's a clash of titans, an event the whole world stops to watch.  

Messi and Ronaldo have towered over Spanish and European soccer for an entire decade. Each year since 2008, one of these two men has won the most coveted individual prize in soccer, FIFA's Ballon d'Or award for the best soccer player on the planet. The other man was the runner-up during that stretch in every year but one. Their two-man domination has been overwhelming.

But this article is about Labor Day, not soccer. I'm using the examples of Messi and Ronaldo to highlight a character trait they have in common: a completely uncommon work ethic, a "world-class" work ethic. No one works harder, trains harder, practices harder and longer, than these two. Both have an amazing amount of natural talent that by itself would have made them exceptional athletes. But what has taken them to the very pinnacle of their profession is sheer determination and hard work. Both are well known for their intensity in training and conditioning, and their obsession for game preparation. In their own words:

"Talent without working hard is nothing." Cristiano Ronaldo

"You have to fight to reach your dream. You have to sacrifice and work hard for it." Lionel Messi

* * * * *

In a few days we celebrate Labor Day. I find it ironic that this holiday seems nowadays to honor non-work rather than work. It seems to be all about barbecues and picnics and not much else. There's not even a whiff of patriotism or honoring fallen heroes, as with our other summer holidays. No, this day is all about doing nothing.

Hard work used to be as American as apple pie, but things seem to be changing. The lack of a serious work ethic among so many in our country does not bode well for the future. When work is seen as punishment rather than opportunity, or as something only for suckers or losers, our culture and economy teeter on the brink of stagnation.  

Years ago, Pope John Paul II warned of societal forces that "stimulate the natural inclination to avoid hard work by promising the immediate satisfaction of every desire." This attitude of dishonoring hard work may be the logical by-product of today's fame-driven American culture, where "Everyone wants to be famous, but nobody wants to do the work." (Kevin Hart).  

Successful people - as opposed to famous people - have a different mindset about hard work. They relish it and see it as the way to reach their goals and achieve success. As Lou Holtz said, "Winners embrace hard work. They love the discipline of it, the trade-off they're making to win. Losers, on the other hand, see it as punishment. And that's the difference."

Messi and Ronaldo are the best in the world because of a combination of natural talent and relentless, back-breaking work. But you don't have to be a superstar athlete or a superstar anything to pay the price and earn the rewards of hard work. As Gordon B. Hinckley noted, "The major work of the world is not done by geniuses. It is done by ordinary people who have learned to work in an extraordinary manner. Because without hard work, nothing grows but weeds." Hard work by ordinary people is the key to individual success and American greatness.

That's what we should be celebrating this Labor Day.

Next week's Wednesday Wisdom:

Celebrating Hard Work, Part 2 -Which is more important, to work harder or to work smarter?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Wednesday WIsdom - Climb Every Mountain


"Climb every mountain
Ford every stream
Follow every rainbow
'Til you find your dream."  
 Rodgers & Hammerstein

Marcie and I and some good friends recently enjoyed a delightful evening at the Winter Park Playhouse attending a musical revue of the outstanding playlist of Rogers & Hammerstein. One of their biggest hits and one of my favorites, from The Sound of Music, is "Climb Every Mountain." The majestic music and the powerful message of that song are so inspiring!
The image of resolutely climbing a mountain in search of one's dream is a metaphor nearly everyone can relate to. It captures the whole idea of thinking big; setting our sights high; persevering through a long and arduous climb; and finally reaching the summit and achieving our goal. We can picture ourselves, like Sir Edmund Hilary, standing on top of the world.
But if so many can relate to the metaphor, why do so few people actually climb their mountain and achieve their dream? And how can we make sure we're a successful climber and not merely an also-ran? Here are three excellent pieces of advice on the subject.
Thomas A. Edison: Many don't make the climb because they don't have a clear and significant goal in the first place. Thomas A. Edison pointed out a truth that should be self-evident: "You cannot realize your dreams unless you have one to begin with."
There's a big difference between a wish or a hope, and a dream that is real, concrete, and well-defined. I've heard it said that "If wishes were fishes, we'd all have a fry." Are we planning for real success or just wishin' and hopin'?
Nora Roberts: Getting started is sometimes the hardest part of the climb. Nora Roberts' three simple rules for life are good advice when one contemplates tackling a major mountain climb:
  1. If you don't go after what you want, you'll never have it.
  2. If you don't ask, the answer will always be no.
  3. If you don't step forward, you will always be in the same place.
With all our getting, we need to get going. Sure, planning and preparing are important to our ultimate success, but too many spend all their time "fixin' to" and never get around to the actual "doing." At some point we've got to strap on our hiking boots and start climbing.
Thomas S. Monson:  Once we're on the upward trail, how do we maintain a positive attitude over the long haul? One key is to take a break now and then to celebrate our progress. Thomas S. Monson counsels: "Rather than continually dwelling on all that still needs to be done, pause occasionally and reflect on all that you do and have done."
Nearly every worthy goal is a marathon, not a sprint. Achieving it requires extended exertion. Looking down shows us how far we've come. Looking back helps us picture what it will be like to reach the top. Checking our progress gives reassurance and encouragement for the remainder of the climb.

By having a clear vision of success; stepping out and moving forward; and reminding ourselves how far we've already come, stride by stride we can climb our mountain and find our dream. Good advice for mountain climbing; good advice for life.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Wednesday Wisdom - Yes, You Fill the World with Love


"The happiness of our spouse is more important than our own pleasure."
Neil L. Anderson 


Forty-two years ago today, I was three days away from the most monumental and joyful step of my life - my eternal marriage to Marcie. Ours was a whirlwind courtship, but because of our separate life-changing experiences as missionaries in Brazil and Chile, we understood what we were getting into and were prepared to commit everything to each other, forever.
I knew I was marrying way over my head, but I didn't fully appreciate then just how far out of my league I was. I was aware of her kindness, her concern for the happiness of others, and her depth of character and conviction. I was not aware, however, of how driven she was to live her life in harmony with Petula Clark's lyrics from one of her favorite movies, "Goodbye, Mister Chips."
In the morning of my life I shall look to the sunrise
At the moment of my life when the world is new
And the blessing I shall ask is that God will grant me:
To be brave and strong and true
And to fill the world with love my whole life through.

And to fill the world with love
And to fill the world with love
And to full the world with love
My whole life through.

Over the years, we built our lives together and made room in our little nest for six darling, beautiful, and talented children. She was such a patient, thoughtful, and devoted mother. Her love for me, for them, and for the rest of the world continued to grow.


Her example influenced me to share her quest to be brave and strong and true, and to fill the world with love our whole lives through. Over time, I learned to sing and apply in my life the second verse of her theme song:

In the noontime of my life I shall look to the sunshine
At a moment of my life when the sky is blue
And the blessing I shall ask will remain unchanging:
To be brave and strong and true
And to fill the world with love my whole life through.

And to fill the world with love
And to fill the world with love
And to full the world with love
My whole life through.

Now, 42 years into this wonderful adventure, our nest is empty, our hair is gray, and our pace is a little slower. I push her wheelchair whenever we go out, and she in turn still gently pushes me and inspires me to become the person described in her song.

In the evening of my life I shall look to the sunset
At the moment of my life when the night is due.
And the question I shall ask only God can answer:
Was I brave and strong and true?
Did I fill the world with love my whole life through?

Did I fill the world with love?
Did I fill the world with love?
Did I fill the world with love
My whole life through?


She still strives to bring that song to life. She still asks herself in the sunset of our lives how God will answer the question. I, however, have no doubt what He will say about her. Of all the lives that have been touched by her kindness, affection, and compassion, none has been more blessed than mine.

Yes, my dearest, you are brave and strong and true, and always have been. And yes, dear Marcie, you have filled the world with love your whole life through. I'm so glad you've made me a central part of your wonderful, loving world. Happy Anniversary, Marcie.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Wednesday Wisdom - Sturdy Walls and Solid Friends


""We'll be friends forever, won't we, Pooh?" asked Piglet.
"Even longer," Pooh answered."
A. A. Milne, Winnie The Pooh   


A well-built home requires only a minimum amount of maintenance. Our home in Harmony is officially 10 years old this month. I inspected the exterior this weekend in preparation for hurricane season. All I found were a few hair-line cracks in the stucco, which I easily fixed with a little caulk and paint.

A quality friendship requires only a minimum amount of maintenance. Clay, my college roommate, and I became fast friends 44 years ago this month. I called him this weekend just to say hello and catch up on the news. Even though we don't see each other very often because we live 2,346 miles apart, after 15 seconds it was as if we had been together only the day before.

As sturdy as they are, stucco walls shouldn't be taken for granted. A little attention from time to time will keep those hair-line cracks from getting bigger and will keep the rain at bay.

The same is true for certain relationships. A "just-to-chat" phone call every now and then will assure that the friendship stays solid. A strong friendship doesn't need daily conversation or being together. As long as the relationship lives in the heart, true friends never part.

I believe friendships are lasting, and the same sociality that we enjoy here will be enjoyed in the hereafter. Quality friends are a treasure beyond measure. Sharing life with them is a source of great joy to me. Love is eternal.

I hope all of you have a friend in your life like Clay. He fully meets Shakespeare's definition: "A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow." Thanks, Clay, for 44 wonderful years of brick-wall-strong friendship.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Wednesday Wisdom - I'll Be Happy When . . .

I'LL BE HAPPY WHEN . . .           
"Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." 
  -- Abraham Lincoln 


In my work as a retirement planner, I meet lots of people who are not so happy today but who expect to be completely happy once they finally retire. I have my doubts.
I understand that some jobs are very grinding, and I recognize that some bosses or co-workers are a royal pain to be around. Thus, leaving such a caustic environment could definitely improve one's quality of life. But once the short-term euphoria of not having to work in those conditions has dissipated, I suspect those folks will soon find something else that makes life unpleasant for them. Then they will be waiting for that to go away so they can finally be happy.
The notion some people have that they can't be happy until such-and-such happens is a pattern that unfortunately sticks with them wherever they go. Waiting until __________ [whatever, fill in the blank] before they can finally be happy robs them of happiness today.
This is not to say that we can't look forward with eager anticipation to upcoming milestones like retirement, a nice vacation, or a special holiday. Nor does it mean that when life throws us a body blow, we shouldn't take a few days to absorb it and regain our equilibrium. But neither alternative should knock us off our innate sense of loving life as it comes.

I couldn't say it better than did writer Crystal Boyd:
"We convince ourselves that life will be better after we get married, have a baby, then another. Then we are frustrated that the kids aren't old enough and we'll be more content when they are. After that we're frustrated that we have teenagers to deal with. We will certainly be happy when they are out of that stage. We tell ourselves that our life will be complete when our spouse gets his or her act together, when we get a nicer car, are able to go on a nice vacation, when we retire.
"The truth is, there's no better time to be happy than right now. Your life will always be filled with challenges. It's best to admit this to yourself and decide to be happy anyway. Treasure every moment that you have.
"Stop waiting until you finish school, until you go back to school, until you lose ten pounds, until you gain ten pounds, until you have kids, until your kids leave the house, until you start work, until you retire, until you get married, until you get divorced, until Friday night, until Sunday morning, until you get a new car or home, until your car or home is paid off, until spring, until summer, until fall, until winter, until you are off welfare, until the first or fifteenth, until your song comes on, until you've had a drink, until you've sobered up, until you die, until you are born again, to decide that there is no better time than right now to be happy."
I like to be around people whose lives are filled with challenges, but who've decided to be happy anyway. I enjoy working and worshiping and socializing with folks who've determined that there is no better time to be happy than right now.
I relish spending time with people who've chosen to adopt Groucho Marx's attitude: "I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn't arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I'm going to be happy in it."

To that I say, "Amen."