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Amazing Possibilities!

  • Writer's pictureMatthew Kelly

What Successful People Do that 99% of People Don’t

It's interesting, isn't it, that most people judge other people by their successes and then turn around and judge themselves by their failures?

I mean, look at a guy like Babe Ruth. He struck out 1,330 times during his career. He hit 714 home runs. He failed twice as often as he succeeded. Do we judge him by his failures? Absolutely not. He failed twice as many times as he succeeded. Do we judge him by his failures? No, we judge him by his successes, 714 home runs. In the early 1900s, there was a young cartoon journalist, he came out of school and captured his dream job working at a newspaper drawing cartoons, became very close to his boss, became a close friend and mentor until one day his boss came into his office and fired him. The young cartoon journalist, he was devastated. This was his dream job. This had been his whole dream his whole life. And all of a sudden, a man who he deeply respected had fired him from this dream job. And he said to his boss, "Do you mind if I ask why?" His boss said, "Well, the way I see it is you're in a creative position and I don't think you're a creative person. You're in this creative role. And to me, you don't strike me as a very creative person. I think you should move into something else." Young man went home. I was absolutely devastated. He went into a fit of depression for about three months. But about three years later, that young man created something we know as Mickey Mouse. His name was Walt Disney.

Here's another example. Perseverance. I mean, Vincent Van Gogh, he painted 1,700 paintings during his lifetime. Imagine 1,700 paintings. How many paintings do you think Vincent Van Gogh sold while he was alive? One. Only one painting while he was alive for $85. Imagine if Vincent had said to himself, "Vincent, why don't you become a painter, and why don't you paint five paintings and sell those five? And when you've sold those five, then you can paint some more." You'd never be able to go down to Philadelphia and see such great works as Sunflowers. 1,700 paintings during his lifetime. Only sold one. But 100 years to the day after his death, one of Vincent's paintings was sold at auction in New York City for $40 million. Perseverance, find your genius, bring focus to your genius, and chase down those dreams.

My favorite story of perseverance in American history is the story of Abraham Lincoln. Many people believe that Lincoln was just born ready to become president. Not so. He was born into great poverty. He lost eight elections, twice failed in business, suffered a nervous breakdown, all before he became president of the United States. This is a brief sketch of his life. In 1816, Lincoln's family was forced out of their home, and he had to go to work to support them. In 1818, his mother died. In 1831, he failed in business. In 1832, he ran for state legislator and lost. In 1832, he also lost his job. In 1832, he also decided he wanted to go to law school, but his application was rejected. In 1833, Lincoln borrowed some money from a friend to begin a business. But by the end of that same year, the business had failed and he was bankrupt. Lincoln spent the next 17 years of his life paying off that debt. In 1834, he ran for state legislator again and lost. In 1835, he was engaged to be married but his fiancé died. It broke his heart. In 1836, Abraham Lincoln suffered a total nervous breakdown and spent more than six months completely confined to his bed. In 1838, he sought to become Speaker of the state legislator and lost. In 1840, sought to become a lector and lost. In 1843, he ran for Congress and lost. In 1846, he ran for Congress again. This time he won, made his way to Washington. But in 1848, Lincoln ran for re-election to Congress and lost. In '49, he sought the job of land officer. Listen to that. Abraham Lincoln applied for the job of land officer of his home state. His application was rejected. In '54, he ran for the US Senate again and lost. In '56, he sought the vice-presidential nomination at his party's national convention. He got less than 100 votes and lost. In '58, he ran for the US Senate again and lost. And then in 1860, Abraham Lincoln decided to run for president. I mean, based on what? He probably thought to himself-- in 1858, when he ran for the Senate and lost, he probably said himself, "It's all right, I'm going to be president in two years". He won. Went on to become a great president. This is what he said. He said, “The path was worn and slippery. My foot slipped from under me, knocking the other foot out of the way, but I recovered and I said to myself, ‘it's a slip, not a fall.’” Perseverance, perseverance. Take the people you most admire out of the history books and see the role perseverance plays in their lives. Abraham Lincoln, great story.

I saw Michael Jordan interviewed a few years ago. The interviewer asked him, "Michael, what is the secret to your success?" As if anyone could pinpoint one thing and say. But Jordan took the question seriously and he looked down for a moment and collected his thoughts. Then he looked back up at the interviewer and said this, "I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost more than 300 games. And 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. Throughout my life and throughout my career, I have failed and failed and failed again. And that's why I succeed". And that's why I succeed. Perseverance. Perseverance. There is no success without it. Perseverance. What is the difference between the heroes, the leaders, the legends, the champions, the saints that fill the history books and the rest of us? They just have better habits. They just had better habits. And one of them always dominant in their lives, perseverance.

Matthew Kelly

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