Start the Week With Desire and Drive … by Publisher Peter Bennett

June 25, 2012
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Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States

Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States

“When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt

After a young man told Socrates (c. 469 BC – 399 BC) he wanted knowledge, Socrates took him to the sea and dunked his head in the water for 30 seconds before letting him up for air.

“What do you want?” Socrates asked.

“Knowledge,” the young man replied.

Socrates dunked his head again.

“What do you want?” Socrates asked once more.

“Air,” the young man said, gasping.

“When you want knowledge as much as you want air, you shall have it,” Socrates said.

Although desire has to come from within, you can see it in action.

It’s the flea attacking the elephant. It’s NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice running 20 40-yard sprints uphill after practice. It’s playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) writing five pages a day for nine heart-wrenching years even though he made only $30 in those nine years. It’s black dramatist August Wilson (1945-2005) acting angrily after his teacher accused him of plagiarizing his essay on Napoleon.

“If I hadn’t written it, I wouldn’t have put my name on it,” Wilson told his high school instructor before tearing up his essay, throwing it in the wastepaper basket, and walking out of school, never to return.

To achieve greatness, you have to reach the point of no return. “From a certain point on there is no longer any turning back,” said novelist Franz Kafka (1883-1924). “That is the point that must be reached.”

There was no turning back in Hannibal (247 BC – c. 182 BC), the great Carthaginian general who marched his army and his elephants over the Pyrenees and the Alps into Italy. In his unquenchable thirst to defeat the powerful Roman war machine, he said, “We must either find a way or make one.” Before his father would even let him join his army, Hannibal had to swear that as long as he lived he would never be a friend of Rome, whose legions were supreme in the Mediterranean. “I swear so soon as age will permit … I will use fire and steel to arrest the destiny of Rome,” Hannibal reportedly said.

To be a winner in life, the desire for achievement has to rage in your belly. If you can’t feel it, you have to find it, or you’ll just be second rate at what you do. Sam Walton had this ferocious resolve to be better each day.

“I was so competitive that when I started Boy Scouts in Marshall, I made a bet with the other guys about which one of us would be the first to reach Eagle,” Walton wrote in his memoirs. “Before I made Eagle in Marshall, we had moved to the little town of Shelbina, Mo., population maybe 1,500, but I won that bet. I got my Eagle at age 13, then the youngest Eagle Scout in the history of Missouri.”

In business, he was just as ambitious. “As good as business was,” he said, “I never could leave well enough alone, and, in fact, I think my constantly fiddling and meddling with the status quo may have been one of my biggest contributions to the success of Walmart.”

A generation earlier, retailer Marshall Field (1834-1906) rivaled Walton’s passion and competitive drive. After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, he was the only one of all the burned-out merchants on State Street to stay and rebuild. “Gentleman, on that very spot, I will build the world’s greatest store, no matter how many times it may burn down.”

“Throw your heart over the fence and the rest will follow,” Norman Vincent Peale wrote. What goal do you want to throw your heart over the fence for? What are you determined to achieve?

For race car driver Jeff Gordon, it’s a checkered flag. “It’s not racing I love, it’s winning,” he said after winning the Daytona 500 one year. “Those are the moments you live for. Those are the moments we get paid the big bucks for. You know, you live to be in that position. To have chaos all around you, for your car to lead the pack, and to get out there. And when you get in that position, you make damn sure nobody passes you. … I want to see that flag really bad.”

Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic showed that same will to win in the thrilling finals of the 2011 U.S. Open in New York, a match filled with ferociously contested points. “In big matches, the winner is decided by small margins, a couple points,” Djokovic said after his epic struggle against Spain’s Rafael Nadal. “I guess the winner is the one who believes in victory more.” Describing his narrow victory over Nadal again at the 2012 Australian Open, in the longest Grand Slam singles final in the history of professional tennis, he revisited his winning theme.“I think it was just the matter of maybe luck in some moments,” he said, “and [a] matter of wanting this more ….”

In the 2012 NFL playoffs, quarterback Tom Brady was clearly focused on taking his New England Patriots back to the Super Bowl. “I go out there and be the best teammate I can be,” he said, “because the goal in life is to win.”

In a job search, some people fight tooth and nail to get to the front of the line. Peale shares the story about a young man stuck in line with 37 people in front of him. Not wanting to physically cut in front of others, the jobseeker handed the boss’s assistant a note that read: “Don’t hire anybody until you interview candidate No. 38.” In Peale’s story, the boss came out and hired him on the spot.

Instead of getting to the front of the line, others want to get to the top of the mountain. Sir Edmund Hillary was defeated in his first attempt to scale Mount Everest, an expedition where his team lost a man. Hillary wrote, “Mount Everest, you have defeated me. But I will return. And I will defeat you. Because you can’t get any bigger and I can.”

To reach the pinnacle, be prepared to sacrifice (a word that shares the same root as “sacred”) everything. A famous violinist was approached by a woman who gushed, “I’d give my life to play like you.” The violinist simply responded, “I did.”

Many of you will remember the 1963 movie, The Great Escape, starring Steve McQueen (1930-1980) and based on a true World War II story. The escapees threw their hearts over the fence by tunneling under the prison’s perimeter. Of the 86 escapees, 83 were captured and 41 executed. Despite the horrible outcome, I have no doubt they would have tried it again if given the chance.

Anthony Robbins, author of Awaken the Giant Within, shares another story from World War II about a kind of desire rarely found inside humans.

“Stanislaw Lec saw his family shot before his very eyes at Auschwitz …. For weeks, he asked other prisoners how to escape. How can I get out alive today? The answers he heard were always the same. Don’t be a fool, there is no escape. One day, he darted behind a truck, stripped himself naked, and threw himself on top of a heap of dead bodies in the back of the truck. He asked a different question. How can you use this to escape? He lay among the corpses until a truck dumped its ghastly cargo into an open grave. At nightfall, he ran naked 45 miles to freedom.”

George Horace Lorimer (1867-1937), best known as the editor of The Saturday Evening Post, said, “You’ve got to get up every morning with determination if you are going to go to bed with satisfaction.”

That’s good advice, to which I’ll add, “When people expect you to quit, show them your grit!”


Belief and Desire Create the Spark and the Fire

In Game 6 of the 2011 World Series — perhaps the most thrilling World Series game ever played — St. Louis rallied three times in the final three innings to defeat the Texas Rangers. Twice, St. Louis was down to its last strike of the series and the season. While David Freese’s mighty home run over the centerfield wall in the 11th inning provided the deciding run in the Cardinals’ amazing 10-9 victory, no one in the winning dugout was discounting another powerful force at work:

“We never quit trying,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “I know that’s kind of corny, but the fact is we never quit trying.

“The dugout was alive even when we were behind. And sometimes it works.”

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