Arcticle originally printed in the Arizona Republic by Harvey Mackay:
Have you ever heard the old fable about when the devil offered all the tools of his trade to anyone who would pay their price? They were spread out on the table, each one labeled — hatred, malice, envy, despair and sickness — all the weapons that everyone knows so well. But off on one side apart from the rest, lay a harmless-looking, wedge-shaped instrument marked discouragement. it was old and worn-looking, but it was priced far above all the rest. When asked why, the devil explained: “Because I can use this one so much more easily than the others. No one knows that it belongs to me, so with it I can open doors that are tightly bolted against the others. Once I get inside, I can use any tool that suites me best.”
A very real problem within all of us that can cause an attitude crash is discouragement. I’ve always gone out of my way to stay away from negative people. I like to surround myself with positive, upbeat people who constantly encourage me.
How can you reach for the stars, go bravely where no man has gone before or climb the highest mountain if you’re discouraged?
Author Glenn Van Ekeren outlines the four pitfalls of discouragement: Discouragement hurts our self-image; causes us to see ourselves as less than we really are; causes us to blame others for our predicament; and causes us to blur the facts.
Dale Carnegie, the eternal optimist, said: “Tell a child, a husband or an employee that he is stupid or dumb at a certain thing, that he has no gift for it, and that he is doing it all wrong and you have destroyed almost every incentive to try to improve. But use the opposite technique, be liberal with encouragement; make the thing seem easy to do, let the other person know that you have faith in his ability to do it, that he has an undeveloped flair for it, and he will practice until the dawn comes in at the window in order to excel.”
One of the greatest novels in American literature was the result of a very discouraging day for the author. Nathaniel Hawthorne had lost his job at a customhouse and went home to break the new to his wife, Sophia. Rather than the reaction he expected she was joyous. “Now you can write your book,” she told him.
Unconvinced, Hawthorne asked her, “And what shall we live on while I am writing it?”
Sophia opened a drawer, which contained a substantial amount of money and told him, “I have always kown that you were a man of genius. I knew that someday you would write a masterpiece.” She went on to explain that she had saved some of the household money each week, and had accumulated enough to last for a year. And with that, Hawthorne set to work on The Scarlett Letter, a novel many of us have read in our high school English classes. And all because Sophia Hawthorne refused to let her husband he discouraged.
In her book The Right Words at the Right TIme, Marlo Thomas tells the story of Shaquille O’Neal, now the superstar center for the NBA’s Miami Heat. When he was 14, he attended a basketball camp expecting to astound the coaches with his brilliance. He had been a star in his San Antonion high school, but at the camp he was just one of many star athletes. Not getting the attention he was accustomed to from the coaches, he began to worry that perhaps he wasn’t good enough to make the grade. His self-confidence took a nosedive.
Discouraged, he turned to his parents for advice. His mother told him: “You must fulfuill your dreams while there’s still room for you to do so. Attack them with a full head of steam. There’s no opportunity like now. This is the time you can show people.”
His confidence almost gone, Shaq told his mother, “I can’t do that right now. Maybe later.” Then, says Shaq, his mother said the words that he remembers changed his life: “Later doesn’t always come to everybody.”
Mackay’s Moral: You aren’t finished when you are defeated; you are finished when you quit.