John Maxwell tells the story of a young girl who skipped onto the stage of a dilapidated, half-filled theater hall. Her voice competed with the noise of an unruly audience, when midway through the first verse of her first song, a beer bottle smashed onto the floor just a yard or so in front of her. The child’s voice quaked momentarily, but she continued to sing. She had been ingrained with a “the show must go on” mentality, and that’s exactly what she did. As she neared the end of the musical number, the girl struggled to find enough breath to finish her performance. The smoke-filled air reeked of cigarettes and made it especially hard to sing. The girl missed a couple of notes as the song ended. She curtsied and then made her exit to a mixture of applause and boos.
When we think of Academy-Award winner Julie Andrews, we never imagine that she is the girl just described. We picture her twirling, arms outstretched against the beautiful backdrop of the Austrian Alps—melodiously singing the opening stanzas of The Sound of Music. Whether as Maria Von Trapp or Mary Poppins, Andrews sings and acts so effortlessly that it’s tempting to assume she was born a star. Yet, her beginnings were humble as she toured with vaudeville troupes and performed in seedy auditoriums filled with rowdy, working-class crowds in Britain.
We often assume that successful individuals were born with almost superhuman talents. We erroneously surround greatness with a certain kind of mystique and deem it somewhat inaccessible to the average person. But success is not contingent on having extraordinary, innate ability. Nor does greatness depend on some mysterious approach to life. There are no secrets to success—only simple truths, principles, and disciplines that have been around for thousands of years. What are some of these principles of success?
(1) An irrepressible positive attitude. In The Sound of Music, Andrews at one point of struggle says, “When God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window.” It takes more than mere charm to get ahead in life; you must move ahead with a positive attitude and you must stop the negative, critical self-talk of defeat.
(2) Disciplined hard work. We talk about someone’s career taking off after making a “big break.” Usually, however, the big break was preceded by years of dedicated study, practice and hard work.
(3) The stamina of determined perseverance. Julie Andrews’ voice propelled her to stardom, but in her words, “Singing has never been particularly easy for me.” She was not blessed with immense vocal talent, but her intense practice sessions throughout her career helped her voice to take off.
Summer is a great time to contemplate your life’s purpose and priorities, as well as consider how you’re doing in managing the life God gave you. The Apostle Paul says, “…A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:7-10).
Blessings to you,