“With time and patience, the mulberry leaf becomes satin.” —Chinese Proverb
And Winston Churchill said, “Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” Easier said than done! Although intellectually we all know that true success as we define it comes from our staying power, most of us struggle with our journey, and many give up all together before we ever reach the finish line.
Over the years, going through my share of ups and downs, I have created my own method for staying in power. Along with purpose, focus, and devotion, I need to constantly practice patience; believe in chance encounters; and take the next step forward.
1. Practicing Patience
This realization of the power of patience was most obvious to me during my visit to the Toshogu Shrine in Nikko, Japan. There I was, standing in front a famous Japanese calligraphy. It was a quote by Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, which ruled Japan for over 250 years until 1868. The quote says: “The strong manly ones in life are those who understand the meaning of the word patience. I am not as strong as I might be, but I have long known and practiced patience. And if my descendants wish to be as I am, they must study patience.”
Over time, I have found that the practice of patience begins with:
- acceptance–Not everything goes according to plan. We cannot always control what happens, but we can learn to accept victories and defeats and use them to move forward.
- compassion–Dalai Lama says, “a truly compassionate attitude toward others does not change even if they behave negatively or hurt you”. It is perhaps one of the hardest things to practice, yet there is no substitute for compassion.
- gratitude–When life turns us upside down, staying in an attitude of genuine thankfulness helps us realize what we have.
2. Believing in Chance Encounters
“Chance encounters are what keep us going.”
—Haruki Murakami,Kafka on the Shore
In life’s journey there are many encounters. Some are planned; some are by accident; and some by divine intervention. I have had many amazing ‘Chance Encounters,’ where it seems as if the universe rallied to come to my aid when I needed the help most. They have occurred when least expected–and many of the people I’ve encountered have become friends and family. And whenever those encounters initially left me with a ‘negative’ experience, they turned out to be a much-needed lessons for me.
I believe chance encounters happen to those who remain optimistic no matter what. Dr. Daniel Tomasulo writes:
“In the May 2010 issue of the Journal of Positive Psychology researchers Peters, Flink, Boersma and Linton demonstrated that subjects who imagined a ‘best possible self’ for one minute and wrote down their thoughts generated a significant increase in positive affect. The researchers also concluded ‘…that imaging a positive future can indeed increase expectancies for a positive future.'” In other words, the researchers demonstrated it was possible to induce optimism.
“By inducing optimism, the prepared mind becomes a positive one,” they go on. “This is an intriguing finding: it suggests that we can change both how we feel in the moment, and how we feel about what is to come. If we are prepared properly and are optimistic we are likely to incorporate the chance encounter and use it as a positive experience. The glass we were not expecting to see will be half full.”
And from my own personal experiences, I couldn’t agree more.
3. Taking the Next Step Forward
The ability to visualize our dreams creates a mindset that makes our ambitions possible. Understanding exactly what we want is the foundation for our success. But executing that success requires taking the next step everyday towards the top, no matter how hard it maybe.
Author Joseph Marshall III shares Native American wisdom on taking the step in his book Keep Going. “It means letting the tears flow through the grief; it means to keep looking for the answer though the darkness of despair is all around. Each step takes you closer to the top of the hill, closer to the light of the next sunrise, and the promise of a new day.”
One of my all time favorite movies, Men of Honor is a 2000 film inspired by the true story of Master Chief Petty Officer Carl Brashear, the first African-American Master Diver in the United States Navy. The below clip perhaps says it all about taking the next step!
I have come to believe that to survive and ultimately thrive we have to choose the blessings life brings to us everyday. Each day is a different one; each day brings a miracle of its own. And ultimately, it is with that belief we build our staying power everyday.