Over the years, I’ve crossed paths with many who were extremely successful as well as some who were such miserable failures that, as Mama liked to say, they “ain’t worth the breath they draw.”
I have pondered the difference between those who succeed and those who just seem to roll over and give up. It seems logical to say that talent, intellect, ambition, energy and common sense pave the way to achievement while laziness, poor decisions and addictions hinder it.
After studying up on it, watching both achievers and failures, I have come to this conclusion: It is not just through the workings of our hands that we are made but through the words of others.
Encouragement. Belief. Faith. When others have it in us, it keeps us afloat when the waters are rough.
I heard Tim Nichols, the co-writer of the hit song “Live Like You Were Dying” and many other No. 1 country hits, tell the story of leaving Missouri for Nashville as a teenager to follow his dream. His dad drove him there, got him settled and always encouraged him during the many trying years before success came.
“Every dreamer has to have a believer,” Nichols said. “I was the dreamer and my dad was the believer.”
We need someone to tell us our dream isn’t crazy and we have what it takes.
Mama always said, “You can do whatever you set your mind to. You’re a smart little girl.”
So, I thought that I could because she told me I was.
When I got down to business to become an author, I flew to New York to meet an agent I wanted. I was so excited when I returned because he had agreed to sign me. I thought it was a miracle, but Mama and my sister, Louise, just smiled calmly and shrugged. Both said that they had had no doubt.
When the outline for that first book became the center of a four-day auction among major New York publishers, they both got a bit more excited. When the final offer rolled in, those who believed in me most had to honestly admit that they never thought of me being worth that much money. Even the most devout believers have boundaries.
As the years have rolled on, I’ve become more acutely, sensitively aware that not a modicum of achievement is mine alone. Every win in my life has been produced by coaches, teammates and a sideline of cheerleaders who pushed me to triumph with something as simple as a kind word or the admonishment to pick up and carry on. Without all of them, I wouldn’t be the me I am today.
And those who never receive that reinforcement stumble and fall. They fail.
This all crystallized for me at Louise’s dinner table. When everyone was assembled, I announced, “Did y’all know that I’m opening for (comedian) Bill Engvall?”
This, of course, wasn’t true. But I had come up with the idea that I could do it and since I believe in the power of the tongue, I announced it. Prematurely. But the tongue has to start somewhere.
My sister, bless her dear heart, looked up from her butter beans and asked, “When? I hope it’s not when we’re gone on vacation.”
The moment was simple at first, but it has stuck with me. It never occurred to her that it wasn’t true. Her faith and belief in me was powerful. With almost astonishing speed, those words came true and I was hired to open for Engvall. I was astounded, but Louise and the ones who love me were not.
That’s the difference between success and failure. It’s not what we do, but how high we are lifted by those around us.
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