The Gospel according to Saint Mark asks a question that I want to pose to you now. “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?” (Mark 8:36 NLT). What good is winning the battle if you are going to forfeit the war? What is the use in spending your entire life working if you are not going to enjoy the work you are doing? These are questions that should guide your behavior. These are questions that should guide your way of thinking. If I could remove the entire middle chunk of Kipling’s poem to only read, “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you” then “yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it”, would you possess the earth? Would it be yours? MTV used to run a game show called boiling point. In the show they would put people in the most unbearable of situations and see if they could keep their cool. If they were successful then they would win cash on the spot. I used to watch the show and wonder if I would be able to win the cash in some of those situations. As life would have it, I never made it on the show but I have been faced with several situations where I had to keep my cool. Doing so did not render me a cash prize but it promised me something greater. It promised me a chance to realize my dream. I challenge you to be very intentional about your temperament and your behavior. A hidden camera may not be watching but your dreams are and you do not want to disappoint them or let them down. So keep your head even when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you.
In 2008, the United States of America elected its forty-fourth president, President Barack Obama, in the midst of one of the worst economic situations we have seen since The Great Depression. From the moment he took office he has been blamed for the employment rates, national debt and all overall economy issues. No one can argue that it is his responsibility to make things better and lead the country in the right direction. However, can someone truly be blamed for a problem they inherited? I could take time here and share my political opinion but that is for another book. Here I wanted to high light the president’s response. When the entire country is frustrated by jobs, wages and a host of unaddressed issues and everyone is looking at him demanding answers and criticizing him for the slow recovery, President Obama remained calm and collected. He stays true his agenda and does not allow the blame from others to shake his focus. Regardless of how you feel about his policies, this is a point of interest for anyone seeking to accomplish their goals and realize their dreams.
In the book, Developing the Leader Within You, author John C. Maxwell (2005) explains that “The Greek word for self-control comes from a root word meaning “to grip” or “take hold of.” This word describes people who are willing to get a grip on their lives and take control of areas that will bring them success or failure” Maxwell (2005, p.161). Kipling opens his poem with the very first conditional supposition, “if you can keep you head…” This implies to me how important the idea of self-discipline is in the attainment of ones goals. Before you can do anything in preparation for the life you want to live, you must conquer self-discipline. Maxwell quotes a gentleman by the name of Edwin Markham who had this to say on the subject:
We are blind until we see that in the human plan nothing is worth the making if it does not make the man. Why build these cities glorious if man unbuilded goes? [sic] In vain we build the world unless the builder also grows (p. 162).
This statement is no different than the law of self-preservation. Self-discipline is about dealing with what is going on inside of you. It does no good to even accomplish your goal if you are not able to learn and grow alone the way. While building your dreams you should be building yourself. “When we are foolish, we want to conquer the world. When we are wise, we want to conquer ourselves” (p. 163). Those who are able to keep their heads in the midst of ciaos are those that understand that they learning even when they are the teacher.
Maxwell offers advice for those seeking to begin or continue in the process for developing personal discipline. He suggests that you should start with yourself. We have talked a lot about the reasons this is so important. The world will offer plenty of distractions to keep you from accomplishing your goals. It is up to you to keep yourself focused and moving towards the things that are really important to you. He then suggests that you should start early. It is never too early to start working on yourself or your dream. The earlier that a parent starts training a child in the area of responsibility and maturity the longer they have to let it soak in. My dad was and still is (to some extent) a disciplinarian. He demanded hard work, time management, persistence, honesty, responsibility, attention to detail and even a positive attitude. There were lessons that I flat out did not understand until I was in college or later. Knowing how long it took him to train me gave me an inclination on how long it would take me to train me. I know now that I am a very hard worker but I do not like to work hard. I agree with Maxwell in that, “hard work is the accumulation of easy things you didn’t do when you should have” (p.164). If you build the habit of starting things early then you will notice that you do not have to work hard to be a hard worker. Self-discipline allows me to do more is a short amount of time than most people would do in a much longer amount of time. It is not because I am so much smarter or quicker. It is because I understand how to tap into my own momentum and accomplish what I set out to accomplish. You can do the same through self-discipline. Maxwell says that the next step is to start small. We talk a little bit more about this in later chapters but it is important to break down your goal into smaller and achievable goals. With the world around you serving as a distraction, it is important to have small victories that help push you to keep fighting for your dream when things get tough. Finally, Maxwell say that you must start now. Ask yourself how long do you really want to be doing what you have to do and not what you want to do. Ask yourself how important it is to you to realize your dreams. If you want to live the life you have dreamed of then you need to start preparing yourself for it right now. Do not wait; do not pass go; do not take a ride on the reading railroad unless it is apart of your travel plans. Your time is NOW!