by Dick Innes
Sylvia Hirsch was branded "the girl most likely to fail" by one of her high school teachers. Not a good way to encourage anyone. But Sylvia didn't let somebody else's opinion discourage her for too long. Twenty-five years later her efforts gave her a quarter-million-dollars-a-year business.
Sylvia was an average Texas homemaker when her husband set up a restaurant in New York. When his business was losing money, Sylvia added her special homemade cheesecakes to the menu. They were an instant success and earned top ratings from food authorities.
Soon her cheesecakes were being purchased by six of the best restaurants in the city. Eighteen months later she had a truck delivering to 25 restaurants.
Peter Sumner was another person who didn't appear to have too much chance of achieving much with his life when he was blinded in an accident at 19 years of age.
But Peter refused to focus on his problems. Instead, he concentrated on his potential. Today he is the director of the Christian Foundation for the Blind. His extensive work includes radio broadcasting, writing and traveling internationally.
"A racehorse is handicapped but he can still win the race."
Peter's conviction is that no matter what hardships you have physical, social, or economic you can still develop your potential. "Handicapped simply means something which makes success a bit harder to achieve. A racehorse is handicapped, but he can sill with the race."
Mike Weldon would certainly agree. Zig Ziglar tells his story in his book See You at the Top. At age one, Mike contracted polio. At age two he was able to walk with braces an crutches. But by age 16 he had become a paraplegic and was confined to a wheelchair.
At age 21 he suffered another setback. He lost his job as an engineering clerk. Knowing there wasn't a heavy demand for paraplegic engineers, he could have been discouraged and given up. He didn't. In just one month he was hired as a placement counselor with an employment agency. Four years later he was honored as his company's Counselor of the Year.
People like Mike, Peter, and Sylvia who develop their potential always concentrate on what they have--not on what they don't have. As Peter Sumner says, "It's what you do with what you've got" that counts.
And that's true for all of us. The question is, how can we do that more effectively?
First, start where you are. People who succeed are people who do what they do well--whether it is being a student, a factory worker, a gardener, a teacher, or whatever. They follow the ancient advice of Solomon who said, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might" (Ecclesiastes 9:10, NIV).
The place to begin is to improve and work harder at what you're doing right now. Make a success of that and soon other doors will open for you.
It's the way Fritz Kreisler, famed violinist, answered a woman who rushed up to him after a concert and cried: "I'd give my life to play as beautifully as you do."
To which Kreisler replied, "I did."
Second, use what you have. It is a truism in life that what we don't use we lose.
I am reminded of Nicolo Paganini's violin which the great violinist willed to Genoa--the city of his birth--on condition that it never be played again. Unfortunately with wood, if it is used and handled it shows little wear, but unused it loses it quality. And so it was with Paganini's exquisite instrument; it has become valueless except as a relic.
It's the same with our talents. The more we use them, the better they become. The less we use them, the more they become rusty and ineffective.
Everybody has at least one talent. So take the talent or talents you do have and look for every opportunity you can find to use them.
Third, develop a positive mental attitude. Successful people always turn their problems, mistakes, and setbacks into stepping stones. They use all of these as opportunities for discovering creative solutions and learning better ways of doing things. In other words they take advantage of difficult times to turn them into opportunities for growth and development.
Walt Disney went broke seven times before becoming successful.
Fourth, push until you reach your limit. You'll never know the limit of your potential until you've given all you have to give--even to the point of failure. Consider a high jumper, for example; he never knows how high he can jump until he consistently reaches his failure point.
Fifth, be persistent. Remember Walt Disney who went broke seven times and had a nervous breakdown before he became successful...and Thomas Edison who failed 6,000 times before he perfected the electric light bulb.
As Calvin Coolidge once said, "Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."
Sixth, set specific goals. If there were no chance of your failing, exactly what would you like to accomplish with your life? Take this dream and make it more than a wish. Make it your life's goal and vision. Write it down. Be specific. Give yourself a reasonable time limit for the achievement of this goal. Go over it every day and visualize it already achieved. Get yourself adequately trained and start working towards that goal today. And always remember that "even the highest mountain can be climbed one step at a time."
Seventh, be sure that your goals are in harmony with God's will for your life. Never forget that God loves you and does have a wonderful plan for you life. A very important part of that plan is developing and living up to your potential in every area of life--not just spiritually, but emotionally, physically, and intellectually as well. This includes discovering and developing your specific talents. Jesus made it clear that one way we would be rewarded would be on the basis of how we developed and used our talents for God. He also reminded us that if we don't use our talents we'd lose them (see Matthew 25:14-30).
Seek God and his will for your life. Ask him to help you right now. Then learn to put him first in everything you do and he will help you discover and develop your true potential and crown your efforts with success.