"There are two kinds of success, or rather two kinds of ability displayed in the achievement of success. There is, first, the success either in big things or small things which comes to the man who has in him the natural power to do what no one else can do, and what no amount of training, no perseverance or will power, will enable any ordinary man to do.
"But much the commoner type of success...is the kind of success which is open to the average man of sound body and fair mind, who has no remarkable mental or physical attributes, but who gets just as much as possible in the way of work out of the aptitudes that he does possess." - Theodore Roosevelt, in his essay "The Vigor of Life."
Roosevelt went on to add, "I need hardly say that all the successes I have ever won have been of the second type."
Teddy Roosevelt was weak and sickly as a child. At the age of fourteen, after being subjected to relentless bullying by a couple of other boys, Teddy decided to do everything within his power to become physically stronger and mentally tougher. He studied boxing under a personal trainer. He took up wrestling, and then horseback riding, swimming and shooting.
Roosevelt admits that he never excelled brilliantly at any of these endeavors. He did, however, after much hard and sometimes painful work, develop the ability to "hold his own" - in the boxing ring and on the equestrian course, while big game hunting and during his tenure in the White House. Along the way, he developed greater confidence in his own limited abilities and he earned the respect of men much stronger and more physically and mentally gifted than he.
I am currently reading a delightful book loaned to me by a friend - The Letters & Lessons of Theodore Roosevelt for His Sons. One theme I have encountered repeatedly in this small volume is this: Teddy Roosevelt was not content to sit passively and complain about the things he could not do. Instead, he resolved to make the best of the resources available to him.
As a weak, asthmatic teenager, Teddy knew he would never be a prize-fighter. Even so, he determined that anyone who tried to rough him up in the future would regret doing so.
I am both challenged and encouraged by Teddy Roosevelt's example of working diligently to make the most of whatever abilities he possessed.
How often do I focus my thoughts on something I cannot do, and then use my real inability in one area as an excuse for general laziness or inactivity in other areas of my life, areas where I could actually accomplish a great deal if I only applied myself?
How often do I tell myself the lie that if success does not come easily or naturally, then it must be unattainable?
How often do I look at difficulties and obstacles as justification for giving up, instead looking at them as opportunities to grow stronger and to learn?
I am ashamed to admit that I often choose to lament what I cannot do rather than to work hard at what I can do.
Teddy Roosevelt would have had none of such nonsense.
Neither should I.
3 months ago