“No matter what accomplishments you achieve, somebody helps you” (Althea Gibson).
IT IS GOOD TO REMEMBER THAT WHEREVER WE ARE, WE’VE HAD TO HAVE HELP GETTING THERE. There is no such thing as a completely independent achievement, and each of us needs to acknowledge our indebtedness to those who have helped us.
But while humility and gratitude are in order, it’s also in order to emphasize accomplishment. Even with the help of others, some people never do anything. Grace is shown to them, but it’s wasted. They pass through life dreaming, planning, and promising — but never doing.
There is a Persian proverb that says, “Thinking well is wise; planning well is wiser; but doing well is wisest and best of all.” At times, we are nothing more than dreamers and talkers. We envision great accomplishments, and we talk about how wonderful they would be. But maybe instead of dreaming of worthy accomplishments, we should just stay awake and do them! I still chuckle when I remember a literary agent who once told me, “Gary, when you get done dreaming about your great book, send me some hard copy. That’s all I can sell.”
Our accomplishments are often hindered because our motivation is wrong. We fail to do things because we’re not sure we’ll be rewarded as we wish. (Will people appreciate this? Will they praise it? Will it make me rich and famous?) But many things have an inherent worth, and we should accomplish them simply because they’re worth doing. As Emerson said, “The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.” It is, after all, better to be a nobody who accomplishes something than a somebody who accomplishes nothing. At the end of the day, accomplishment has little to do with what the world calls “celebrity.”
So each of us needs to heed the advice of Theodore Roosevelt, who said, “Do what you can with what you have where you are.” Our accomplishments won’t be those of someone else — they will be those we were uniquely gifted to accomplish. And yes, we’ll make mistakes and blunders. But as Samuel Smiles put it, “He who never made a mistake never made a discovery.” Our lives in this world are too short to waste. Enthusiastic ideas should lead to energetic action.
“The great accomplishments of man have resulted from the transmission of ideas and enthusiasm” (Thomas J. Watson).