Guest Commentary / January 10, 2022

Tenacity, Mission, and Legacy: Resolution for the New Year

Every dream takes preparation and hard work. Wealth doesn’t create dreams.

By Douglas Daugherty

“There has never been any great person who never met great trials and oppositions, but their patience, tenacity, endurance and perseverance saw them to the end as great people.” —Ernest Agyemang Yeboah

Have you always had a dream of what life would look like in the future? If you have, you’re extremely fortunate. If you haven’t, I bet there’s one hidden inside you that gives you glimpses of a future hoped for reality.

As we look into the new year, let’s cultivate our dream(s). Pull some weeds. Turn up the soil. Size it up. Prune if needed. Make sure it gets sun, water, and nutrients through its roots.

Dreams come in all sizes and shapes. You may have dreamed of being a mother or a father. You may have dreamed of a successful business that evolves into a wealthy empire. You may have dreamed of elected office and what you might do there. You may have dreamed of great music, great art, or great craftsmanship. You may have dreamed of a more contemplative life with books, or times of contemplation and prayer. You may have dreamed of being a steady person who provides and protects well. You may have dreamed of being the person who saves civilization or just one needy child or adolescent. You may have dreamed of enjoying a luxuriant, verdant forest or sunrises on a beach. You may have dreamed of a good paying job, a car that is shiny and dependable, and a home that’s just the right fit.

Most of the time, you’ve been given a gift (or it might be waiting for you in a time of desolation). These gifts can be material, relational, or a way of looking at life. You’re good at it. People take notice when you’re “on.”

Dreams are the stuff we want to move towards. We all know there are mostly long paths and many steps and missteps to reaching our dreams. That’s life. That’s interwoven into the dream’s path.

“Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” —Shel Silverstein

In the kind of work I do, people are endlessly talking about mission. Typically, it’s a short sentence that sums up your dream. Google’s mission statement reads, “Our company mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” The mission of the Chamber of Commerce “is to fight for the interests of business and free enterprise before Congress, the White House, regulatory agencies, courts, the court of public opinion, and governments around the world.” Thomas Edison, at 22, patented his first invention and advertised that he “would hereafter devote his full time to bringing out his inventions.” Michael Jordan wanted “to win every game he played.”

Can you reduce your dream to one sentence? It’s the new year. Researchers tell us that if you can articulate your dream, you’re more likely to reach it. But, if you can write down your goal, your mission, trimming off the fat, you are the most likely to reach that dream.

An important part of your dream is that it really is multi-generational. The best dreams embrace their past generations and find the gems of character and deed that distinguished your ancestors, rich or poor, slave or free. The best dreams will also bring opportunity and continuity to your “children,” whether parent, grandparent, teacher, mentor, or coach. You’re in the middle of both your past legacy, which you can learn much from, and for future generations. “If so-and-so can do that, I can do this,” we might say.

But every dream takes preparation and hard work. Wealth doesn’t create dreams. It is usually some dream of the future we want to obtain. If you work hard at something you feel gifted in (and this may or may not be apparent at a young age), you will be prepared when opportunities come your way. You’ll see them as stepping stones to the future.

For me, I’ve always liked to take broken things and try to fix them. I see what’s wrong or figure out what’s wrong and try to come up with creative solutions. I am enamored with beauty and symmetry. That seed of a dream called me when I was five and calls me today.

But what about those who have so invested their life in dream-eroding lifestyles: the drunkard, the addicted gambler, the slothful creative, the prodigy that won’t practice, the athlete who would rather party than train, the man or woman of God who won’t pray, study, or serve? Can a dream survive? Yes, it can be redeemed, but what of lost time and lost opportunity? Uniquely human, sometimes suffering can be the very substance of a dream. That may be the most noble choice of humanity.

“A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities, and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.” —Harry Truman

There are many temptations along the way to your dream, to fulfilling your mission. It takes things most of us don’t like and try to avoid: counsel from wiser folks, discipline, and discernment. These things we avoid may be in ancient books, looking over your shoulder, or busy and seemingly beyond reach. Wrong paths are inevitable, but the more we can avoid, the better off we’ll be.

The one quality that all successful dreamers possess is tenacity. The Oxford English Dictionary says to be tenacious is to be “holding together, cohesive; tough, not easily pulled in pieces or broken.” Tenacity overcomes the lack of initiative.

Whatever your unique dream, hold onto it. Be tenacious. (We are assuming your dream is not criminal or vile. Do good people have good dreams, and bad people have bad dreams? I don’t know.)

Difficulties will arise, but you push through, learning hard things and encountering generous, gracious interventions. Call it what you will — I choose to call it grace — but good things tend to happen to those who have a great dream, roll with the punches, and are tenacious. There are powers beyond what we can see, who are open-armed for those who pursue with tenacity towards the good dream.

That is my contribution to our joint New Year’s Resolution.

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