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Fighting Failure

Thomas Edison. The name is synonymous with brilliance. The man invented hundreds of things. But he is best known, of course, for the light bulb. While we take the light bulb for granted, they never dreamed of such a thing before Edison. But did you know that he failed in his first attempt to make the light bulb? Then he tried again. Again he failed. A thousand times, Edison failed.

Can’t you imagine his friends asking old Tom what he was doing?

He’d say, “I’m inventing the light bulb.”

They’d say, “What’s a light bulb?”

On and on he kept at it. Then one day the light came on, in his head, and then in the bulb. I would explain the working of a light bulb to you, but my space is limited! Suffice it to say that if not for the perseverance of old Tom, we’d all be in the dark today.

Here’s the lesson. Don’t ever give up on your dreams. Find something you’re good at. Then go for it. Sure, you’ll fail. Muhammad Ali once said, “My goal when I step into the ring is to get up more than I go down.”

So chase your dreams. One day the light will come one. You may never be as famous as Tom, but the world will be a brighter place.

“I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground” (Matthew 25:25).

Teddy Roosevelt Was Shot This Day in 1912

Before a campaign speech in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Theodore Roosevelt, the presidential candidate for the Progressive Party, was shot at close range by saloon owner John Schrank while greeting the public in front of the Gilpatrick Hotel. Schrank’s bullet, aimed directly at Roosevelt’s heart, failed to mortally wound the former president because its force was slowed by a glasses case and a bundle of manuscript in the breast pocket of Roosevelt’s heavy coat.

Schrank was immediately detained and reportedly offered as his motive that “any man looking for a third term ought to be shot.” Roosevelt, who suffered only a flesh wound from the attack, went on to deliver his scheduled speech with the bullet still in his body. After a few words, the former “Rough Rider” pulled the torn bloodstained manuscript from his breast pocket and declared, “It takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.” He spoke for nearly an hour and then was rushed to the hospital.

Neal Shusterman said, “The measure of a man is not how much he suffers in the test, but how he comes out at the end.” We all take our share of shots in this life. What determines a man’s greatness is not what leads up to the shots, but is found in his response.

Gimpers

You won’t find one in the National Wildlife Federation’s Manual of Rare Species, but rare it is. Like the bald eagle, the prairie bison, and the whooping crane, gimpers are seldom seen on our landscapes. They are occasionally spotted on college campuses, in the business world, and even in churches.

So what is a gimper, anyway? Plug in these clues. In the 1976 Summer Olympics, Bruce Jenner was a gimper. In the six-day war, Moshe Dayan was a gimper. So was Vince Lombardi, as a football strategist. A gimper of motherhood was Susanna Wesley. Donald Barnhouse was a gimper preacher. As a creative thinker, Leonardo da Vinci was a gimper. One of our gimper presidents was Abraham Lincoln. Thomas Edison was a gimper inventor.

So what, exactly, is a gimper? You can look it up. A gimper is defined as a person who is “committed to the core, thoroughly and unequivocally.” They make commitments, then stick to their commitments.

Gimpers change the world. Jesus Christ was the greatest gimper who ever lived. Listen to his famous words, with a slight interpretation. “Follow me, and I will make you gimpers.”

The Old Testament says it like this – “When a man makes a vow to the Lord, he must do everything he says he will do” (Numbers 30:2).

American Woman Climbs Everest

It happened 28 years ago today. Stacy Allison, of Portland, Oregon, became the first American woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, which at 29,035 feet above sea level is the highest point on earth. Allison, a member of the Northwest American Everest Expedition, climbed the Himalayan peak using the southeast ridge route. In May 1953, climber and explorer Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay of Nepal made the first successful climb to the peak.

Ten years later, James Whittaker, of Redmond, Washington, became the first American to top the peak, reaching Everest’s summit with his Sherpa climbing partner Nawang Gombu. In 1975, Japanese mountaineer Junko Tabei became the first woman to conquer the mountain. Three years later, Reinhold Messner of Italy and Peter Habeler of Austria achieved what had been previously thought impossible: climbing to the Everest summit without oxygen.

Allison did what so many others have failed to do, as two dozen climbers died in attempts to reach the peak of Everest in the last century.

While the death of the failed climbers is a tragedy, it teaches us a valuable lesson. We know the names Allison and Hillary because of what they accomplished. We don’t know the names of those who died trying to reach the mountain’s peak. But we do know this – we all die. The question is whether you will die, satisfied with all you have done. Or will you die while still pursuing another mountain?

I’d rather die while failing to achieve my dreams than to live in the malaise of the valley.

One Person

Why don’t you do more?

“I’m just one person,” you say.

To that, I quote the Hebrew word. “Bologna.”

One person can do a lot! Let’s consider an example. One man invented the bifocals most of you are using to read this right now. He did it at the age of 79. The same fellow was the first to harness the electricity needed for you to turn on your coffee pot this morning. He founded an Ivy League school and fathered the U.S. Mail. He invented the lightning rod and designed the heating stove. This fellow spoke and wrote in five languages, despite just two years of formal education.

Who was this man? Most of you guessed it. Ben Franklin. One might call him a bit of an over-achiever. Do you know people like that?

Mark Twain said, “Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.”

At the risk of annoying you with the example of Mr. Franklin, I challenge you to look into your own life. You are just one person. Correction: you are one person. (Leave out the “just.”)

But did you know the Bible says, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength”? Don’t trust me. Ask Ben.

Van Gogh Paintings Are Shown

On this day in 1901, paintings by the late Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh were shown at the Bernheim-Jeune Gallery in Paris. The 71 paintings caused a sensation across the art world. Eleven years before, Van Gogh had committed suicide without any notion that his work was destined to win acclaim beyond his wildest dreams. Born in Zundert in The Netherlands in 1853, Van Gogh worked as a salesman in an art gallery, a language teacher, a bookseller, and an evangelist before settling on his true vocation as an artist. He studied drawing at the Brussels Academy and in 1881 went to The Netherlands to work from nature. In 1886, Van Gogh went to live with his brother, Theo, in Paris. There, he met the foremost French painters of the postimpressionist period, including Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Gauguin, Camille Pissarro, and Georges Seurat. In 1888, Van Gogh, mentally exhausted, left Paris and took a house at Arles in southeastern France where he was joined by Gauguin. Shortly after, he suffered a bout of mental illness and was diagnosed with dementia.

It’s too bad Van Gogh didn’t recognize his own greatness. What made him great was not that he was a painter for the ages, but that he quit selling books, teaching school, and preaching. He found the one thing he was best at and poured himself into it. The result was one of the finest painters the world will ever produce. The Bible says to find the things God created you to do (I Corinthians 14) and get after it. You will never attain greatness by turning your weaknesses into strengths, but by making your strengths even better. So find your “thing,” and get after it. The world is waiting.

Shoe

Jeff MacNelly used to write an old comic strip called Shoe. In one of the comic strips, Shoe is pitching in a baseball game. In a conference on the mound, his catcher says, “You’ve got to have faith in your curve ball.” Shoe grumbles, “It’s easy for him to say. When it comes to believing in myself, I’m an agnostic.”

Unfortunately, that is the way a lot of people think about themselves. I love the words of Charles Schwab. “When a man has put a limit on what he will do, he has put a limit on what he can do.”

Let me suggest you follow the advice of Jack Canfield. In his book, The Success Principles, he recommends the following four steps to transform limiting beliefs into empowering beliefs. First, identify a limiting belief that you want to change. Second, determine how the belief limits you. Third, decide how you want to be, act, or feel. Finally, creat a turnaround statement that affirms or gives you permission to be, act, or feel this new way.

Leadership expert John Maxwell says it like this. “Practice a small discipline daily in a specific area of your life.” Great advice! Don’t be an agnostic. Don’t be the Shoe. Solomon said it like this. “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

The Rushmore Report: What You Didn’t Know about Steven Spielberg

Steve had a goal. He could see what he wanted right in front of him – the studio buildings that led to his dream. But a formidable force stood in his way: a stem-faced security guard at the entrance to Universal Studios. Steve refused to be deterred. Dressed in a suit and tie, he marched forward. He carried his father’s briefcase, even though it held only a sandwich and a few candy bars.

Then came the moment of truth. The guard made eye contact. With Steve’s mind focused solely on his goal, he swallowed his fear, gave the guard a casual wave and kept walking. To the young man’s surprise and relief, the guard waved back. With that, Steven Spielberg walked through the studio gate and into his destiny.

For the rest of that summer young Spielberg – with the blessing of an accommodating studio executive – impersonated a movie industry professional. At summer’s end, having gained an immeasurable on-the-job education, Spielberg embarked on a film-directing career that has yielded hits such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, A.I., and Munich.

Centuries ago, the aging Caleb had a goal – to finally claim the fertile land God had promised decades earlier. To achieve his dream, Caleb had to face daunting obstacles. The first was to overcome his fear. Once he did that, the Scripture says, “Then the land had rest from war” (Joshua 14:15). Do you feel like you are fighting a war? Jesus came to give you rest (Matthew 11:28). In the words of John Donne, “He that fears God fears nothing else.”

As a young man, Spielberg had a goal. And he used his knowledge, skills, and drive to achieve his dream. As an old man, Caleb had a goal. Certainly, he had courage and drive, but he also had God’s purpose and empowerment. Imagine what you can accomplish for God when he gives you both purpose and power!