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September 9, 1992

There Are No ‘Scratch and Win’ Plans for Life

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We live in a culture full of people looking for instant success – the one right move to take us over the top. It’s why you know someone who has fallen for a pyramid scheme and why you’ve bought a Powerball ticket. I don’t think it is because we are stupid, or lazy, or even greedy. I think it is because we are inherently drawn to the idea of a singular action that will set everything right. My experience, however, has shown that this sort of instant success is the exception, rather than the norm. Most successful people I’ve had the pleasure of working with didn’t do one thing right, they did several things right and probably a few things wrong. They performed a series of moves over time that either allowed them to succeed or pushed them to failure, but always led them to understanding and maturity.
There is no silver bullet, scratch-and-win move that can catapult you into success in the material sense or in the flourishing sense of the word. You must not only be intentional about life, but you must also make hard decisions that move you toward the ever present always ahead of you goal of the flourishing life.
Winston Churchill, who was famous himself for never giving up, once said, “If you are going through hell, keep going.” Sometimes when things get “thick” in life, you just have to keep going. When you keep suffering setbacks at work or you run into wall after wall trying to connect with your teenage kid, sometimes you just have to put your head down and put one foot in front of the other. This is often what life demands. We cannot simply step out of life because things don’t go as planned.
The Apostle Paul knew this better than most. Shipwrecked, blinded, persecuted and chased, he reminded us that we must endure. It’s part of a special ethical hierarchy of living, or what I like to call my Guide to Hope. Paul, in what may seem an odd turn, began by suggesting that we rejoice when life throws pain and suffering our way. We should rejoice because we inherently understand that suffering produces endurance. Endurance, then, produces character—it makes you a better person. Finally, character produces hope.
It is the person of character, the person who has endured, the person who has suffered who is the person of hope. Paul wasn’t just saying, “Buck up!” Rather, he was doing something common in his culture. He was saying, “When the going gets tough, it is the wise person who remains tranquil, who remains steady.”
From the wisest among us to the most foolish, deep down we understand that there is no quick trip to success. We understand that to live is to struggle. We must remember, though, that struggle begets success. In life, the truly successful people are the ones who have paid their dues and did their fair share of fighting along the way. You won’t win in life with one quick takedown. But you can win in life by fighting through each struggle, holding onto hope one moment at a time, and continually moving toward the flourishing horizon.

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