I’m going to start this message with a quote that I just discovered recently…
“I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.” Martha Washington (First Lady of the United States of America, 1731-1802)
I love that quote. It’s message is consistent with something I learned as a young man. Someone gave me a book by Martin Kehoe, entitled Your Greatest Power, and the lessons from that book have stayed with me for a lifetime. Your greatest power, according to Kehoe, is the power to choose. You can choose to be enthusiastic and positive about your life and your opportunities or you can choose not to be. You can choose to be happy or you can choose not to be.
Once in my career, my boss was asking me for an assessment of a particularly difficult situation. After voicing my opinion, which was rather upbeat and positive, he accused me of seeing the world through “rose-colored glasses.” He saw the situation through a different set of lenses, one of a pessimist, or as he would put it, a realist. His point was well taken. There are indeed, times when a realistic point of view is necessary. There are hard times when it would be inappropriate to conclude that one can just change their thinking and things will improve immediately. However, more times than not, that is exactly what you need to do. And it can be done. I remain steadfast in my belief that almost every circumstance can be improved by just thinking about it in a positive way.
So, now that I am older, I have seen many of life’s seasons and cycles. Sandy and I have been flat broke and we have been financially secure. I know what it means to be unemployed, under-employed, over-qualified, under-qualified. I’ve been lucky and unlucky. I have been the organization hero and I have been the opposite. Through it all I have been blessed with an ability to find the positive side of almost every situation. That attitude prevails, it smothers everything in its wake. A person with a positive attitude sees possibilities through rose-colored glasses. That positive self-expectancy affects situations. It moves situations in a positive direction. Good things happen. I wish it was easy to pass on a positive mental attitude from generation to generation.
My career has taken me to the field of philanthropy. My role is that of a professional fundraiser. What a great field for the incurable optimist–a perfect fit for me, my skills, my passions, my enthusiasm for life and for finding the good in others. I am so blessed to have the opportunity to meet successfully people who have learned the most valuable lesson of life. The truly successful people live by one of my favorite quotes– “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill
So it is that generous giving of one’s time, talent or treasure that is the greatest of life’s pleasures. A truly successful life is not measured by how much a person can accumulate or by your financial net worth. At death, all of the toys in the world are useless. The only thing that might last forever is what you have given away. No one knows that lesson better than Ben Franklin.
In 1790 Benjamin Franklin left $4,000 jointly to the city of Philadelphia and the state of Pennsylvania. He left instructions that the money should be conservatively invested, but not withdrawn for 200 years after his death.
In 1990 this fund had grown to $1,500,000–375 times its original value. Today that money provides scholarships at Penn College and funds several charitable foundations. Because of his remarkable insight, Benjamin Franklin continues to benefit thousands of lives even though he has been dead for more than 200 years.
So if you find yourself down on your luck, take a breather, if you must. Then, dust yourself off. Begin anew. Act enthusiastic. Be enthusiastic. Act positive. Be positive. Make something happen-one day at a time.
Don’t waste your time obsessing over what is unfair or unfortunate about
your situation. Put all your energy into what you can do, into the
positive steps you can take, and deliver yourself to wherever you wish
to be. Ralph Marston
And finally, I leave with this from legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, who passed away this past year just shy of his 100 year birthday.
John Wooden was a special man, the likes of which only come along rarely. His athletic career and coaching record are unmatched, but his real-life achievements are in the area of personal and human development. He was fond of saying, “Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”
God bless each of you, not that you live without difficulties and struggles, but rather that you pray when you feel overwhelmed and helpless, and that you work as if the whole world depends upon your humble effort.