What Matters Most: The Power of Living Your Values

Overview

In What Matters Most, bestselling author Hyrum W. Smith explains why so many people feel something is missing from their lives because of conflicts between actions and personal values. Through compelling examples from others and from his own extensive experience, Smith outlines a simple but powerful formula to help you identify your own values and live them to the fullest. ...

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Overview

In What Matters Most, bestselling author Hyrum W. Smith explains why so many people feel something is missing from their lives because of conflicts between actions and personal values. Through compelling examples from others and from his own extensive experience, Smith outlines a simple but powerful formula to help you identify your own values and live them to the fullest. This strategy consists of three valuable steps:
Discover what matters most to you
Make a plan
Act on that plan
By incorporating Smith's strategy into your life, you will not only re-embrace your values but you will make them your priority. What Matters Most is an indispensable and timely guide to living a truly fulfilling life and becoming the person you always wanted to be.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Jack Canfield coauthor of Chicken Soup for the Unsinkable Soul If you really want to take control of your life and do more of what is really meaningful to you, then read this book written by one of the true masters!

Richard Carlson author of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff...and It's All Small Stuff If you care about what really matters, read this book. Thoughtful and beautifully written. An enormous contribution to ethics, integrity, and the renewal of character.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
With advice that's more practical than spiritual, this respectable if unoriginal self-help book encourages readers to find greater meaning in life through determining goals and formulating a mission statement. Smith believes that goal setting has value not only for individuals who have lost their moral compass, but for families, organizations (such as his Franklin Covey Company) and even nations. He supplies exercises for gaining self-understanding, evaluating one's roles, assessing their relative importance and determining what he calls "governing values," along with guidance for achieving long-range goals, pithy mantras ("whip the demons by small victories every day") and familiar talk about fear of failure and fear of change. Smith shares some anecdotes about his own development and the efficacy of his program, including a lengthy tale about lecturing to troubled Utah high school kids, along with reflections on Winston Churchill, Michael Jordan and Mother Teresa. With many accomplishments to his credit as a successful family man, the business executive who created the Franklin Planner daybook, a motivational speaker and the author of the bestseller Ten Natural Laws of Time and Life Management, Smith is well qualified to write this book and will attract many readers with his reputation, but some may be disappointed by his occasionally preachy and self-satisfied tone, and that his familiar message lacks the punch of authors like Stephen Covey and the empathy of such others as Laurie Beth Jones. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684872575
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Publication date: 9/25/2001
  • Edition description: 1st Fireside Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 795,641
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.44 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Hyrum W. Smith is the author of the bestselling book The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management and is a highly sought-after international speaker and the originator of the Franklin Planner. He and his wife, Gail, reside in the beautiful desert of Southern Utah, where Hyrum enjoys spending time with his family and horseback riding.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Heroes: People Who Know Who They Are

There is no chance, no fate, no destiny that can circumvent, or hinder, or control a firm resolve of a determined soul.

— Ella Wheeler Wilcox

It has been said that we live in an age when there are no heroes. I strongly disagree. While teaching and speaking with people about how to find and live by their deeply held values, I have heard about many heroes who have been role models and sources of inspiration for people both famous and obscure.

If I were to ask you to make a list of the heroes in your life, you would probably come up with several people you admire who have had an impact on your personal or professional life. There have been many such heroes for me, individuals for whom I have immense love and respect, who have brought out the best in me, and whose lives or characteristics have inspired me to find out who I really am.

Winston Churchill and England's Darkest Hour

Perhaps my reasons for talking about heroes can best be illustrated by referring to one of my own sources of inspiration, Winston Churchill. He has been one of my heroes since high school when another hero, a high school teacher (more about him later), first awakened my interest in history and I became aware of Churchill's vital role in the outcome of World War II. In recent years I have been taken aback to learn that many of those who have grown up since World War II know so little about him. He appears to be just a name if he shows up on their radar scopes at all, whereas I believe Winston Churchill's actions were pivotal in one of the great and most dramatic turning points of civilization.

We must start with the fact that the future did not look at all promising for England's survival in May 1940 when Churchill became its prime minister. A little more than twenty years had passed since Britain and her allies had defeated Germany in what was widely considered "the war to end all wars." But now the reborn military might of Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany was overrunning Holland and Belgium and pushing into France in what seemed to be a crushing replay of the opening of the earlier war. This time the German blitzkrieg appeared to be unstoppable.

For most of the previous five years Hitler had thumbed his nose at the world community, rearming his nation and reoccupying former German territory given to France after World War I. He had engineered the German annexation of Austria in a bloodless coup. In the so-called Munich accords in the fall of 1938, Hitler had used deceit to persuade England's Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and France's Premier Edouard Daladier to give in to his demands to occupy and "protect" the German-speaking portions of Czechoslovakia. That done, Hitler promptly gobbled up the rest of the country less than six months later. Only late in this period had the British begun to rearm themselves, and they were seriously outnumbered in terms of men in uniform and modern military equipment. They could only hope that France's strong army would be able to deter further German moves.

In September 1939, Hitler's armies entered Poland, in direct defiance of the promises he had made at Munich. The British and French, having promised to aid Poland if it was attacked, reluctantly declared war on Germany. It was a case of too little, too late because within weeks Hitler subdued and occupied Poland.

In May 1940, after a winter in which the armies of Germany and France faced each other across the fortifications of France's supposedly impregnable Maginot Line, Hitler appeared to be unstoppable again. Wheeling through the Low Countries, the German tanks simply outflanked the French border fortresses, and they appeared capable of quickly reaching Paris.

The proclamation of "peace for our time" with which Chamberlain had originally hailed the Munich agreement with Hitler had turned out to be anything but. On May 9 the now discredited Chamberlain resigned, recommending to King George VI that Winston Churchill be named his successor.

Although Churchill was a member of Chamberlain's Conservative Party, he had been one of the leading critics of Chamberlain and of the party's handling of the entire German situation. Following Munich, Churchill had declared that the prime minister's "peace for our time" was "an unmitigated disaster." A weary Chamberlain was now saying in effect, "I've failed. You see if you can do any better." On May 10, Winston Churchill was summoned to Buckingham Palace. In his words: "Presently a message arrived summoning me to the Palace at six o'clock....I was taken immediately to the King. His Majesty received me most graciously and bade me sit down. He looked at me searchingly and quizzically for some moments, and then said: '...I want to ask you to form a Government.' I said I would certainly do so."

Following his appointment, Churchill met with political and military leaders, advisers, and others, and they put together a coalition government. This was happening while the roar and clash of battle continued on the Continent.

Someone in Winston Churchill's position at that time might have felt some misgivings about the menace his nation faced. He might have felt the oppressive burden of leadership during those perilous times and perhaps some apprehension about his ability to change events. Not so, as revealed in his memoirs:

As I went to bed at about 3 A.M., I was conscious of a profound sense of relief. At last I had the authority to give directions over the whole scene. I felt as if I were walking with Destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial....My warnings over the last six years had been so numerous, so detailed, and were now so terribly vindicated, that no one could gainsay me. I could not be reproached either for making the war or with want of preparation for it. I thought I knew a good deal about it all, and I was sure I should not fail. Therefore, although impatient for the morning, I slept soundly and had no need for cheering dreams. Facts are better than dreams.

Reading these words, I feel a great surge of emotion. Churchill was a man who was in the right place at the right time, and as a result he made a powerful difference for the entire world — a difference that certainly puts him on anyone's list as one of the most influential persons of the twentieth century.

At 3 o'clock on the morning of May 11, 1940, Winston Churchill clearly seemed to be a man who "had it all together," who knew who he was and what he was capable of doing in the crisis he faced. Let's look at what his words reveal about the man at this critical time.

After being asked by his king to form a new government, he works long into the night to put together a government in the midst of chaos and despair. Finally, as he goes to bed, he is "conscious of a profound sense of relief."

Relief? He was taking over the leadership of an unprepared country that was at war with the greatest military machine that had ever been created up to that point in history. Having just been given the biggest task of his life, he was experiencing "relief." He was having feelings of calmness and serenity. How could he possibly feel that upbeat, given the circumstances?

Churchill provides his own answer to that question: "At last I had the authority to give directions over the whole scene. I felt as if I were walking with Destiny." Have you ever felt that you had authority over the whole scene of your personal life? Have you ever felt that you were walking with destiny in your life? Winston Churchill did, and his words reveal a quiet confidence, a sense of self-worth. He was certain about his ability to lead and to find the answers that would bring his people through the crisis.

You're probably thinking, "That's all fine, but I'm not a Winston Churchill." Yet I believe we are all capable of having those same feelings of confidence and self-worth about our own spheres of influence. We may not have to face a crisis that involves saving the world, as Churchill did, but whatever our challenges in life may be, we are each capable of gaining the same kind of sureness and confidence.

We are going to talk about how to do just that. When you finally decide to take control of your life, to identify what matters most to you, to choose a direction and plan so that you know exactly where you're going and how to get there, you will have the same sense of relief that Churchill described in the midst of his country's darkest hour.

Winston Churchill's words also tell us something about how he arrived at this point: "all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial." Churchill's earlier political life had not been a bed of roses. He had even been out of favor in his own party as much as he had been in. But as he ascended to the pinnacle of political prominence, he seemed to realize that, in the words of General George C. Marshall who would head the U.S. Army during World War II, no defeat is ever final, it is just preparation for the next and greater battle.

So here was Winston Churchill, recognizing that he was prepared to take on this magnificent challenge, and as he reflected on his new responsibility, other things went through his mind. "I could not be reproached either for making the war or with want of preparation for it. I thought I knew a great deal about it all, and I was sure I should not fail" (emphasis added).

Churchill wasn't going into this ignorant of the facts. He had been thinking about and preparing for it for much of the previous six years. He had evaluated the situation, had carefully studied what he could of Hitler's war-making capability, and knew the strength and power of the British people when backed up against the wall. He knew that if he could rally the mind, spirit, and heart of the British people, they would eventually emerge victorious. On the eve of what could have been a disaster, Winston Churchill was able to say, "I was sure I should not fail." I stand in awe of the confidence that statement proclaims.

I also love the final lines of that quotation from his war memoirs: "Therefore, although impatient for the morning, I slept soundly and had no need for cheering dreams. Facts are better than dreams." Here Churchill exhibits what I have heard called a "divine impatience for the sun to come up the next morning." He couldn't wait to get started. He must have had some sense of the enormous task ahead. He knew all too well the state of the forces at his disposal and the resources needed to make it happen. He knew other allies needed to be involved in the effort, including a reluctant, isolationist United States. And still he couldn't wait for the next morning.

Have you ever found yourself impatient for the sun to come up? People without vision have no interest in seeing the sun come up the next day. But people with vision experience what Churchill experienced. They can't wait, and as soon as that sun comes up, they are out of bed. They have energy. They have excitement. They have a plan. They have vision. They know exactly where they are going and how they are going to get there.

So what happened after that fateful day in early May 1940? Armed with little more than the power of knowing who he was, Churchill first rallied a downcast and fearful nation with some of the most ringing oratory the world has ever heard. On June 4, 1940, less than a month after becoming prime minister, Churchill rose in the House of Commons to report on the progress of the war. The outlook was not good. The French were on the verge of collapse, about to surrender to Nazi Germany. The British had just about been able to evacuate from France much of their expeditionary force, which had been surrounded by the Germans at the northern French port of Dunkirk, but they had been forced to leave much military equipment behind. They now faced the almost certain invasion of their own island. In this deepening crisis, Winston Churchill outlined the situation to the House of Commons and closed with these stirring words:

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

It took another year and a half before the United States entered the war and tipped the balance in favor of Great Britain and her allies. In all that time, during which German aerial bombardment destroyed large sections of London and many British industrial cities, and citizens were armed with pitchforks and ancient firearms as they prepared to defend themselves against invasion, Churchill continued to thunder defiance at Hitler and marshaled what meagerresources he had to fight back. During those months, Winston Churchill not only saved Britain from defeat but, understood now in retrospect, he saved democracy as a form of government in the world. Here was truly a single individual whose life made a profound difference to everyone on our planet.

Other Heroes, Extraordinary and Ordinary

In thinking about my own heroes and talking with others about heroes, I am aware that they do not have to be Winston Churchills or other great historical figures. Some heroes are found in today's sports and media culture, some in unlikely places with unlikely missions. But most are ordinary individuals who know who they are and have discovered the power that comes from that special knowledge. Let's look at three such people; two are well known to almost everyone in the world, and the other is known to a relative few and probably doesn't realize that he is a hero. But he is a big hero to me.

Michael Jordan

In our age of instantaneous communication and widespread interest in sports, is there anyone on earth who has not heard of Michael Jordan? When he retired from the National Basketball Association in 1998, he was considered by many the best player ever to have played the game. This verdict came not only from his peers but from almost anyone who understands the game of basketball. There aren't many people who have received such recognition in the professional basketball arena.

There is no question that Michael Jordan was blessed with the physical equipment to be a great athlete. You couldn't watch him play and not immediately be aware that he has a marvelous body for the sport. He has huge hands that handle a basketball much like an orange. He is extremely well proportioned, very muscular, and is a picture-perfect athletic specimen. But many athletes with similar equipment and physical attributes have not come close to accomplishing what Michael Jordan did.

Why was he so much better than everyone else? We talked about Winston Churchill and his magnificent preparation for the role he played in saving the world. We talked about some of the basic attributes or evidences when someone has it all together. Michael Jordan is one of those people, I believe, who has it all together.

I followed Michael Jordan's career peripherally until the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons when the Utah Jazz were pitted against the Chicago Bulls in the NBA championships. Being from Utah, I've naturally been a Jazz fan for quite a few years. I got to know many of the players on the team between 1986 and 1989 when I accompanied the Jazz team as they traveled to many high schools throughout the state as part of an antidrug campaign. I have great respect for John Stockton, Karl Malone, and the other excellent athletes on the Utah Jazz team, but in both of those championships the Bulls were absolutely unbeatable — in large part because of Michael Jordan.

During game six of the 1998 championship series, I came to understand the magnificence of Michael Jordan. The five previous games had been very difficult for both teams. The Jazz had narrowly won game five in Chicago to bring the series back to Utah. Chicago led the series three games to two. With forty-three seconds left in the game, Utah was ahead. With about five seconds left, the Jazz were one point ahead. All Karl Malone had to do was hold on to the ball, and we would have won game six, taking the series to a seventh and final game. Then Michael Jordan, in a flashing, split-second, magnificently beautiful athletic move, stole the ball from Karl Malone when he relaxed for a nanosecond — just long enough for Jordan to make the steal. Jordan then raced down the court, outfoxed Bryon Russell, scored the basket, won the game, and won the series. It was all over. The Chicago Bulls returned to Chicago with their sixth world championship.

Part of the miracle of television is the magnificent coverage given these athletic events. Viewers are able to see activity that could not be seen from the fiftieth row of the Delta Center in Salt Lake City. I wish I could somehow show you the television image of Michael Jordan's face as he moved in on Karl Malone to steal that ball. The fire and determination in his eyes was awe-inspiring. You couldn't watch Michael Jordan play basketball without noticing his intensity, his immense desire to play well and to win. And that desire motivated him to do things that people when they talk or write about his prowess still can't believe occurred. Like Winston Churchill, Michael Jordan is a person who has exhibited the quality of having it all together, of knowing exactly who he is and where he wants to go. That, in my opinion, is why Michael Jordan is a hero to so many and is respected — even by his fiercest opponents.

Mother Teresa, the Little Nun Who Became a Household Name Worldwide

Most people today have probably heard about Mother Teresa of Calcutta, India, who died in 1997 after a lifetime of service to the poor and needy. Who was this diminutive woman who probably didn't weigh 110 pounds ever in her life, and why did she have such an impact on the world? What is it about her which created such love and respect that she appears likely for eventual sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church?

If you put Mother Teresa's talents and skills into the profile of the typical success pattern that modern society seems to look for, she doesn't qualify for the kind of universal acclaim and notoriety that she had. She was born in humble circumstances in Skopje, Macedonia, part of the former Yugoslavia. She wasn't highly educated. She did not have the charisma that often comes with being large in stature. She had very few "marketable skills" of the kind that the world seems to think are essential for influence and success today. What was it about her, then, that promoted her into the white lights of acclaim on a world stage?

The answer is simple and yet very powerful. It is all wrapped up in a word and concept called service. At the age of eighteen she entered a convent in Ireland, and from that time on she dedicated her life to serving her fellow human beings. In 1929 she arrived in Calcutta and began to teach in a school for girls. The misery and affliction of the masses of people in India greatly touched her, and over the next several years her compassion moved her to try to ease their pain and suffering.

On September 10, 1946, on a long train ride to Darjeeling, India, where she was traveling to recover from suspected tuberculosis, Mother Teresa had a life-changing spiritual experience: "I realized that I had the call to take care of the sick and the dying, the hungry, the naked, the homeless — to be God's love in action to the poorest of the poor. That was the beginning of the Missionaries of Charity."

At this point Mother Teresa took this mission most seriously. She didn't just try to do more to help those in need, she went right to the top of her church and asked permission to leave the religious order to which she belonged and establish a new order of sisters. After receiving that permission from Pope Pius XII, she went to work in Calcutta, long known as having one of the worst concentrations of human misery in the world. She spent the rest of her days trying to ease their physical and spiritual suffering. From the legacy Mother Teresa has left us, we can see the familiar pattern common to many heroes: She knew exactly who she was, what was most important to her, what she was about, and what she wanted to accomplish on this earth.

One of the amazing aspects of Mother Teresa's story is how she stood out in a quest that many have been motivated to do. There are great stories of nurses, missionaries, humanitarians, and others who have done marvelous things in serving those less fortunate. Why was Mother Teresa singled out as an icon of this concept? The answer to that seems quite simple to me as well. It is wrapped up in a word and concept called consistency. Mother Teresa consistently went about living her life in accordance with the mission she had identified for herself. She clearly wasn't in it for the personal accolades that it ultimately brought. She was in it because she wanted to bring hope and peace, and end the suffering of people who were sick and dying in the streets of Calcutta.

I have never been to Calcutta, but I've heard from those who have been there that nowhere else in the world has the poverty, sickness, and filth you'll find there. But this is where Mother Teresa decided she was going to make a difference. The statistics show that over the years more than forty-two thousand people were treated at an abandoned Hindu temple that she was able to acquire and convert into the Kalighat Home for the Dying. The nuns would go out and literally take from the streets of Calcutta those who were sick and dying and bring them to the home, where they received love and kindness. To many it would seem like a hopeless and thankless task. More than nineteen thousand died there, but at least they died in a place where people were caring for and loving them.

Mother Teresa's story gradually became known to the world. People were stunned by this inspiring departure from the usual prevalent attitude of "it's terrible, but I can't do anything about it." People simply couldn't comprehend this little dynamo who had created her own order of sisters to help the sick, dying, and needy. As a result, she had a tremendous impact on the world. Perhaps the reason the world has heard of this woman who labored in a faraway place is that she lived her life with a deep understanding of what mattered most, a commitment to doing something about those things, and a willingness to sacrifice the energy of her life for and on behalf of the people to whom she had dedicated it.

Robert Niederholzer

As I look back and seriously reflect on those who personally impacted me in life-changing ways, one of the major players was Robert Niederholzer. I grew up in the Hawaiian Islands. My father and mother moved our family there in 1946 when I was two years old. My father had accepted the chairmanship of the speech department at the University of Hawaii. The plan was to spend two years in Hawaii and then return to the University of Utah where my father had his residency. Our family liked Hawaii so well that we ended up staying thirty years, so I spent my early years, up through high school, in Honolulu.

When I was a junior in high school, my father accepted an exchange teaching job with a teacher from New York University. He swapped jobs and homes for one year as a cross-pollination effort on the part of both institutions for two of their senior professors. So I got to spend my junior year of high school in Douglaston, Long Island, and attended Bayside High School. If you want an interesting experience in culture shock, you ought to move from a small high school in Honolulu to a major public high school in New York City — 300 kids in Hawaii, 4,500 kids in New York. It was an amazing experience. When I returned to Hawaii for my senior year, my homeroom teacher turned out to be a new addition to the faculty — not a local person from the islands but a man from the mainland, Robert Niederholzer.

Like many in the class, I was upset that our homeroom teacher for our last year in high school was an outsider, and not even a local person but somebody from the mainland. How awful! It didn't take us long to recognize, however, that Robert Niederholzer was a very different kind of teacher. Up to my senior year, being successful scholastically was not one of my long suits. If I maintained a C average in my classes, I was delighted. I was interested in lots of other stuff besides homework, exams, and the kinds of things that should be focused on when you're in high school. Instead, I was very involved in athletics and participated in basketball, softball, swimming, tennis, and some track events. I was also very much involved in high school politics as senior class president, and so the "school" part of school was just sort of a hindrance to me.

I had never been much of a reader until my senior year in high school. I didn't enjoy reading; I was slow at it and so didn't do much of it. Mr. Niederholzer changed all that. For the first time in my life I found myself discovering the magic of learning from books. It started with his insisting that I read the first volume of Bruce Catton's classic trilogy The History of the Civil War. This is where my fascination with the Civil War began. I fell in love with that period of American history and in later years found myself, whenever I could, visiting battlefields all over the South and central Northeast looking for the sites where those amazing events took place.

It was interesting to me how Mr. Niederholzer did it. It wasn't a matter of his saying, "Gee, I think you ought to read this book, Hyrum." It was, "You will read this book. You have five days." It was something he insisted on. Initially, out of fear, I would start the books, but by the time I was into the second or third chapter, I was hooked. I think he knew I would be hooked and would get the assignments done. When one book was finished, he immediately had one following it. I probably read more books that year than in all previous years of my schooling put together.

During that time a statement my father had made when I was much younger started to make sense to me. He said, "You cannot think any deeper than your vocabulary will allow you to." As I read the books for Mr. Niederholzer's class, I realized that the best way to build a vocabulary is to read. When you discover a word you don't understand, look up its meaning so you will know what the author is trying to say. I found myself doing that, and my vocabulary started to build. (Speaking of vocabularies, I have heard it said that Winston Churchill had one of the largest vocabularies of anybody alive. And recent studies seem to indicate that a large vocabulary is one of the common denominators of truly successful people.)

Robert Niederholzer was by no means a conventional kind of teacher. There were times that year when I got angry at the pressure he was putting on me. There were times when I thought there was no way I would get everything read. He seemed to sense what my capacity was and never stretched me further than I could endure, but he was always there, insisting and pushing and driving and demanding that I perform.

It's interesting to look back on an experience like that. Now I have this intense appreciation for this man for caring enough to push me the way he did. In retrospect I realize that he really did love me and the rest of the kids in that class. You could tell that by what he was willing to do for and with us. It wasn't just a seven-hour-a-day job for him. He was on the phone with us, he was in our homes; we were in his home, we went on retreats together. He did everything he could to introduce us to the power of our minds. As Kahlil Gibran said in his book of poetry, The Prophet, "A great teacher does not lead you to the threshold of his or her knowledge but leads you to the threshold of your own mind." Robert Niederholzer was a master at doing that, and as a result of his passion and dedication, my life changed dramatically for the good in my senior year of high school.

As I look back now, Robert Niederholzer knew who he was and what he should be doing. In the process, he helped me and a lot of others discover something of who we were and what we could be doing.

A Profile of Those Who "Have It Together"

In looking at the lives of personal heroes, I want to emphasize that I am not talking about heroes strictly as role models. For example, Michael Jordan has been an inspiration and role model for many aspiring young basketball players, but you could spend a lot of frustrated and fruitless time trying to play basketball like Michael Jordan because you can't be Michael Jordan. The same goes for anyone we look up to and would like to emulate. The role of heroes in our lives doesn't work that way. The true role of heroes is to inspire us to be the best we are capable of being. In the well-known phrase from the U. S. Army enlistment commercials, "Be all that you can be."

pard

Some of the most helpful things our heroes can demonstrate for us are the patterns characteristic of people who are "all that they can be." If we look at their lives and behavior, several such patterns begin to emerge. One overall pattern is that they achieve success in their lives. I don't mean success in the materialistic, monetary way it has come to be defined in our day. I mean success in terms of living in harmony with the good things deep within us and uniquely ours. In the introduction to this book I mentioned the leader who impacted my late teenage years and said, "Be yourself, but be that perfectly." To me all the heroes we've talked about did just that. They were and are themselves as perfect as they were capable of being.

Reflect on those people you have known who seemed to have it all together. Their success has come as much from who they are as from what they accomplished. They're generally optimistic, they exhibit an inner peace, and most often they succeed at what they try to accomplish — mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and temporally. Not every one of them will exhibit all the characteristics we've been talking about, but there are some basic ones that apply to most of them. Let's look at some of the patterns common among people who "have it together":

SELF-AWARENESS. These people know who they are. They know their abilities and strengths, what they are capable of doing, and how to accomplish it. With the power that flows from such knowledge, they are capable of accomplishing the impossible even when physically small or frail (like Mother Teresa).

CONFIDENCE. They lack fear. Winston Churchill knew deep inside that he would not fail. Perhaps more than anything else, that confidence carried him and the people of Britain through that terrible trial in their history.

SELF-WORTH. This is most often evidenced in their focus, not on themselves but on those they serve and work with. We saw this evidenced by Mother Teresa and my tough but loving high school teacher, Mr. Niederholzer, who cared enough to light the lamp of learning within me.

A SENSE OF URGENCY. This means a "divine impatience" about everything they do. Winston Churchill impatiently went to bed at 3 o'clock in the morning after having all the burdens of being prime minister placed on him. Such people can't wait for the sun to come up.

A STRONG SENSE OF PERSONAL MISSION. There is a vision of what needs to be done and a passion and focus about doing it. Throughout her lifetime Mother Teresa remained intensely focused on what she felt was a call from God to ease the pain and suffering of the poor.

PERSONAL MAGNETISM. People are drawn to them, and they are able to give "the sure sound of the trumpet." Churchill was able to rally the British people under circumstances that could have made many fail.

AWARENESS AND RESPECT FOR THEIR OWN UNIQUENESS. They don't compare themselves to others or worry about what they're not. Their focus is on what they are.

A CONSISTENCY TO THEIR LIVES. They are not tossed to and fro with every new idea or opportunity or change of events. Like Mother Teresa, some inner sense of consistency keeps them moving toward accomplishing their personal mission in spite of everything that is going on around them.

A SENSE OF CALMNESS AND SERENITY. They are often people who can keep their heads when all about them are losing theirs.

These patterns are not just the exclusive property of the great and successful people of the world. This book is dedicated to the premise that each of us is capable of being ourselves perfectly, of knowing who we are and being able to draw upon the power that comes from that personal and very special knowledge. You are a unique creation, one of a kind, endowed with your own particular mix of talents, abilities, strengths, weaknesses, inner dreams, and potential.

In order to realize who you are, you'll have to be painfully honest with yourself. You may have to set aside a lot of baggage. You may have to deal with others who have good intentions but no right to tell you who or what you should be.

In the process you'll find a sense of purpose that may have been hidden for a long time. You'll also discover a deep and abiding faith in yourself and, more than likely, a strength that comes both from within and, I believe, from spiritual forces beyond yourself. Most of all, you will be able to find the courage to be truly and perfectly YOU.

Copyright © 2000 by Hyrum W. Smith

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Table of Contents

Foreword 11
Introduction: Mount St. Helens, or Why You Should Read This Book 15
Part 1 The Power of Knowing Who You Are 27
Chapter 1 Heroes: People Who Know Who They Are 31
Chapter 2 "One Hundred Years Ago They Had More Time" 47
Chapter 3 "Someday I'm Going to ..." 58
Part 2 Discover What Matters Most to You 67
Chapter 4 "What E'er Thou Art, Act Well Thy Part" 73
Chapter 5 What Are Your Governing Values? 82
Chapter 6 What Is Your Personal Mission in Life? 106
Chapter 7 "The Greatest Force in Creation ..." 117
Part 3 Doing Something About What Matters Most 123
Chapter 8 Use the Inherent Power in Planning 127
Chapter 9 "Make It So!" 136
Chapter 10 What's on Your Belief Window? 154
Part 4 What Matters Most--the Broader View 179
Chapter 11 Organizations Also Need to Know Who They Are 181
Chapter 12 What Matters Most: Influence in a Wider Circle 191
Chapter 13 Life Is Not Set in Concrete 204
Chapter 14 Your Inner Reward: Living the Abundant Life 213
Conclusion: You Can Do It! 227
Index 239
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First Chapter

Chapter 1

Heroes: People Who Know Who They Are

There is no chance, no fate, no destiny that can circumvent, or hinder, or control a firm resolve of a determined soul.
— Ella Wheeler Wilcox

It has been said that we live in an age when there are no heroes. I strongly disagree. While teaching and speaking with people about how to find and live by their deeply held values, I have heard about many heroes who have been role models and sources of inspiration for people both famous and obscure.

If I were to ask you to make a list of the heroes in your life, you would probably come up with several people you admire who have had an impact on your personal or professional life. There have been many such heroes for me, individuals for whom I have immense love and respect, who have brought out the best in me, and whose lives or characteristics have inspired me to find out who I really am.

Winston Churchill and England's Darkest Hour

Perhaps my reasons for talking about heroes can best be illustrated by referring to one of my own sources of inspiration, Winston Churchill. He has been one of my heroes since high school when another hero, a high school teacher (more about him later), first awakened my interest in history and I became aware of Churchill's vital role in the outcome of World War II. In recent years I have been taken aback to learn that many of those who have grown up since World War II know so little about him. He appears to be just a name if he shows up on their radar scopes at all, whereas I believe Winston Churchill's actions were pivotal in one of the great and most dramatic turning points of civilization.

We must start with the fact that the future did not look at all promising for England's survival in May 1940 when Churchill became its prime minister. A little more than twenty years had passed since Britain and her allies had defeated Germany in what was widely considered "the war to end all wars." But now the reborn military might of Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany was overrunning Holland and Belgium and pushing into France in what seemed to be a crushing replay of the opening of the earlier war. This time the German blitzkrieg appeared to be unstoppable.

For most of the previous five years Hitler had thumbed his nose at the world community, rearming his nation and reoccupying former German territory given to France after World War I. He had engineered the German annexation of Austria in a bloodless coup. In the so-called Munich accords in the fall of 1938, Hitler had used deceit to persuade England's Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and France's Premier Edouard Daladier to give in to his demands to occupy and "protect" the German-speaking portions of Czechoslovakia. That done, Hitler promptly gobbled up the rest of the country less than six months later. Only late in this period had the British begun to rearm themselves, and they were seriously outnumbered in terms of men in uniform and modern military equipment. They could only hope that France's strong army would be able to deter further German moves.

In September 1939, Hitler's armies entered Poland, in direct defiance of the promises he had made at Munich. The British and French, having promised to aid Poland if it was attacked, reluctantly declared war on Germany. It was a case of too little, too late because within weeks Hitler subdued and occupied Poland.

In May 1940, after a winter in which the armies of Germany and France faced each other across the fortifications of France's supposedly impregnable Maginot Line, Hitler appeared to be unstoppable again. Wheeling through the Low Countries, the German tanks simply outflanked the French border fortresses, and they appeared capable of quickly reaching Paris.

The proclamation of "peace for our time" with which Chamberlain had originally hailed the Munich agreement with Hitler had turned out to be anything but. On May 9 the now discredited Chamberlain resigned, recommending to King George VI that Winston Churchill be named his successor.

Although Churchill was a member of Chamberlain's Conservative Party, he had been one of the leading critics of Chamberlain and of the party's handling of the entire German situation. Following Munich, Churchill had declared that the prime minister's "peace for our time" was "an unmitigated disaster." A weary Chamberlain was now saying in effect, "I've failed. You see if you can do any better." On May 10, Winston Churchill was summoned to Buckingham Palace. In his words: "Presently a message arrived summoning me to the Palace at six o'clock....I was taken immediately to the King. His Majesty received me most graciously and bade me sit down. He looked at me searchingly and quizzically for some moments, and then said: '...I want to ask you to form a Government.' I said I would certainly do so."

Following his appointment, Churchill met with political and military leaders, advisers, and others, and they put together a coalition government. This was happening while the roar and clash of battle continued on the Continent.

Someone in Winston Churchill's position at that time might have felt some misgivings about the menace his nation faced. He might have felt the oppressive burden of leadership during those perilous times and perhaps some apprehension about his ability to change events. Not so, as revealed in his memoirs:

As I went to bed at about 3 A.M., I was conscious of a profound sense of relief. At last I had the authority to give directions over the whole scene. I felt as if I were walking with Destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial....My warnings over the last six years had been so numerous, so detailed, and were now so terribly vindicated, that no one could gainsay me. I could not be reproached either for making the war or with want of preparation for it. I thought I knew a good deal about it all, and I was sure I should not fail. Therefore, although impatient for the morning, I slept soundly and had no need for cheering dreams. Facts are better than dreams.

Reading these words, I feel a great surge of emotion. Churchill was a man who was in the right place at the right time, and as a result he made a powerful difference for the entire world — a difference that certainly puts him on anyone's list as one of the most influential persons of the twentieth century.

At 3 o'clock on the morning of May 11, 1940, Winston Churchill clearly seemed to be a man who "had it all together," who knew who he was and what he was capable of doing in the crisis he faced. Let's look at what his words reveal about the man at this critical time.

After being asked by his king to form a new government, he works long into the night to put together a government in the midst of chaos and despair. Finally, as he goes to bed, he is "conscious of a profound sense of relief."

Relief? He was taking over the leadership of an unprepared country that was at war with the greatest military machine that had ever been created up to that point in history. Having just been given the biggest task of his life, he was experiencing "relief." He was having feelings of calmness and serenity. How could he possibly feel that upbeat, given the circumstances?

Churchill provides his own answer to that question: "At last I had the authority to give directions over the whole scene. I felt as if I were walking with Destiny." Have you ever felt that you had authority over the whole scene of your personal life? Have you ever felt that you were walking with destiny in your life? Winston Churchill did, and his words reveal a quiet confidence, a sense of self-worth. He was certain about his ability to lead and to find the answers that would bring his people through the crisis.

You're probably thinking, "That's all fine, but I'm not a Winston Churchill." Yet I believe we are all capable of having those same feelings of confidence and self-worth about our own spheres of influence. We may not have to face a crisis that involves saving the world, as Churchill did, but whatever our challenges in life may be, we are each capable of gaining the same kind of sureness and confidence.

We are going to talk about how to do just that. When you finally decide to take control of your life, to identify what matters most to you, to choose a direction and plan so that you know exactly where you're going and how to get there, you will have the same sense of relief that Churchill described in the midst of his country's darkest hour.

Winston Churchill's words also tell us something about how he arrived at this point: "all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial." Churchill's earlier political life had not been a bed of roses. He had even been out of favor in his own party as much as he had been in. But as he ascended to the pinnacle of political prominence, he seemed to realize that, in the words of General George C. Marshall who would head the U.S. Army during World War II, no defeat is ever final, it is just preparation for the next and greater battle.

So here was Winston Churchill, recognizing that he was prepared to take on this magnificent challenge, and as he reflected on his new responsibility, other things went through his mind. "I could not be reproached either for making the war or with want of preparation for it. I thought I knew a great deal about it all, and I was sure I should not fail" (emphasis added).

Churchill wasn't going into this ignorant of the facts. He had been thinking about and preparing for it for much of the previous six years. He had evaluated the situation, had carefully studied what he could of Hitler's war-making capability, and knew the strength and power of the British people when backed up against the wall. He knew that if he could rally the mind, spirit, and heart of the British people, they would eventually emerge victorious. On the eve of what could have been a disaster, Winston Churchill was able to say, "I was sure I should not fail." I stand in awe of the confidence that statement proclaims.

I also love the final lines of that quotation from his war memoirs: "Therefore, although impatient for the morning, I slept soundly and had no need for cheering dreams. Facts are better than dreams." Here Churchill exhibits what I have heard called a "divine impatience for the sun to come up the next morning." He couldn't wait to get started. He must have had some sense of the enormous task ahead. He knew all too well the state of the forces at his disposal and the resources needed to make it happen. He knew other allies needed to be involved in the effort, including a reluctant, isolationist United States. And still he couldn't wait for the next morning.

Have you ever found yourself impatient for the sun to come up? People without vision have no interest in seeing the sun come up the next day. But people with vision experience what Churchill experienced. They can't wait, and as soon as that sun comes up, they are out of bed. They have energy. They have excitement. They have a plan. They have vision. They know exactly where they are going and how they are going to get there.

So what happened after that fateful day in early May 1940? Armed with little more than the power of knowing who he was, Churchill first rallied a downcast and fearful nation with some of the most ringing oratory the world has ever heard. On June 4, 1940, less than a month after becoming prime minister, Churchill rose in the House of Commons to report on the progress of the war. The outlook was not good. The French were on the verge of collapse, about to surrender to Nazi Germany. The British had just about been able to evacuate from France much of their expeditionary force, which had been surrounded by the Germans at the northern French port of Dunkirk, but they had been forced to leave much military equipment behind. They now faced the almost certain invasion of their own island. In this deepening crisis, Winston Churchill outlined the situation to the House of Commons and closed with these stirring words:

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

It took another year and a half before the United States entered the war and tipped the balance in favor of Great Britain and her allies. In all that time, during which German aerial bombardment destroyed large sections of London and many British industrial cities, and citizens were armed with pitchforks and ancient firearms as they prepared to defend themselves against invasion, Churchill continued to thunder defiance at Hitler and marshaled what meagerresources he had to fight back. During those months, Winston Churchill not only saved Britain from defeat but, understood now in retrospect, he saved democracy as a form of government in the world. Here was truly a single individual whose life made a profound difference to everyone on our planet.

Other Heroes, Extraordinary and Ordinary

In thinking about my own heroes and talking with others about heroes, I am aware that they do not have to be Winston Churchills or other great historical figures. Some heroes are found in today's sports and media culture, some in unlikely places with unlikely missions. But most are ordinary individuals who know who they are and have discovered the power that comes from that special knowledge. Let's look at three such people; two are well known to almost everyone in the world, and the other is known to a relative few and probably doesn't realize that he is a hero. But he is a big hero to me.

Michael Jordan

In our age of instantaneous communication and widespread interest in sports, is there anyone on earth who has not heard of Michael Jordan? When he retired from the National Basketball Association in 1998, he was considered by many the best player ever to have played the game. This verdict came not only from his peers but from almost anyone who understands the game of basketball. There aren't many people who have received such recognition in the professional basketball arena.

There is no question that Michael Jordan was blessed with the physical equipment to be a great athlete. You couldn't watch him play and not immediately be aware that he has a marvelous body for the sport. He has huge hands that handle a basketball much like an orange. He is extremely well proportioned, very muscular, and is a picture-perfect athletic specimen. But many athletes with similar equipment and physical attributes have not come close to accomplishing what Michael Jordan did.

Why was he so much better than everyone else? We talked about Winston Churchill and his magnificent preparation for the role he played in saving the world. We talked about some of the basic attributes or evidences when someone has it all together. Michael Jordan is one of those people, I believe, who has it all together.

I followed Michael Jordan's career peripherally until the 1996­97 and 1997­98 seasons when the Utah Jazz were pitted against the Chicago Bulls in the NBA championships. Being from Utah, I've naturally been a Jazz fan for quite a few years. I got to know many of the players on the team between 1986 and 1989 when I accompanied the Jazz team as they traveled to many high schools throughout the state as part of an antidrug campaign. I have great respect for John Stockton, Karl Malone, and the other excellent athletes on the Utah Jazz team, but in both of those championships the Bulls were absolutely unbeatable — in large part because of Michael Jordan.

During game six of the 1998 championship series, I came to understand the magnificence of Michael Jordan. The five previous games had been very difficult for both teams. The Jazz had narrowly won game five in Chicago to bring the series back to Utah. Chicago led the series three games to two. With forty-three seconds left in the game, Utah was ahead. With about five seconds left, the Jazz were one point ahead. All Karl Malone had to do was hold on to the ball, and we would have won game six, taking the series to a seventh and final game. Then Michael Jordan, in a flashing, split-second, magnificently beautiful athletic move, stole the ball from Karl Malone when he relaxed for a nanosecond — just long enough for Jordan to make the steal. Jordan then raced down the court, outfoxed Bryon Russell, scored the basket, won the game, and won the series. It was all over. The Chicago Bulls returned to Chicago with their sixth world championship.

Part of the miracle of television is the magnificent coverage given these athletic events. Viewers are able to see activity that could not be seen from the fiftieth row of the Delta Center in Salt Lake City. I wish I could somehow show you the television image of Michael Jordan's face as he moved in on Karl Malone to steal that ball. The fire and determination in his eyes was awe-inspiring. You couldn't watch Michael Jordan play basketball without noticing his intensity, his immense desire to play well and to win. And that desire motivated him to do things that people when they talk or write about his prowess still can't believe occurred. Like Winston Churchill, Michael Jordan is a person who has exhibited the quality of having it all together, of knowing exactly who he is and where he wants to go. That, in my opinion, is why Michael Jordan is a hero to so many and is respected — even by his fiercest opponents.

Mother Teresa, the Little Nun Who Became a Household Name Worldwide

Most people today have probably heard about Mother Teresa of Calcutta, India, who died in 1997 after a lifetime of service to the poor and needy. Who was this diminutive woman who probably didn't weigh 110 pounds ever in her life, and why did she have such an impact on the world? What is it about her which created such love and respect that she appears likely for eventual sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church?

If you put Mother Teresa's talents and skills into the profile of the typical success pattern that modern society seems to look for, she doesn't qualify for the kind of universal acclaim and notoriety that she had. She was born in humble circumstances in Skopje, Macedonia, part of the former Yugoslavia. She wasn't highly educated. She did not have the charisma that often comes with being large in stature. She had very few "marketable skills" of the kind that the world seems to think are essential for influence and success today. What was it about her, then, that promoted her into the white lights of acclaim on a world stage?

The answer is simple and yet very powerful. It is all wrapped up in a word and concept called service. At the age of eighteen she entered a convent in Ireland, and from that time on she dedicated her life to serving her fellow human beings. In 1929 she arrived in Calcutta and began to teach in a school for girls. The misery and affliction of the masses of people in India greatly touched her, and over the next several years her compassion moved her to try to ease their pain and suffering.

On September 10, 1946, on a long train ride to Darjeeling, India, where she was traveling to recover from suspected tuberculosis, Mother Teresa had a life-changing spiritual experience: "I realized that I had the call to take care of the sick and the dying, the hungry, the naked, the homeless — to be God's love in action to the poorest of the poor. That was the beginning of the Missionaries of Charity."

At this point Mother Teresa took this mission most seriously. She didn't just try to do more to help those in need, she went right to the top of her church and asked permission to leave the religious order to which she belonged and establish a new order of sisters. After receiving that permission from Pope Pius XII, she went to work in Calcutta, long known as having one of the worst concentrations of human misery in the world. She spent the rest of her days trying to ease their physical and spiritual suffering. From the legacy Mother Teresa has left us, we can see the familiar pattern common to many heroes: She knew exactly who she was, what was most important to her, what she was about, and what she wanted to accomplish on this earth.

One of the amazing aspects of Mother Teresa's story is how she stood out in a quest that many have been motivated to do. There are great stories of nurses, missionaries, humanitarians, and others who have done marvelous things in serving those less fortunate. Why was Mother Teresa singled out as an icon of this concept? The answer to that seems quite simple to me as well. It is wrapped up in a word and concept called consistency. Mother Teresa consistently went about living her life in accordance with the mission she had identified for herself. She clearly wasn't in it for the personal accolades that it ultimately brought. She was in it because she wanted to bring hope and peace, and end the suffering of people who were sick and dying in the streets of Calcutta.

I have never been to Calcutta, but I've heard from those who have been there that nowhere else in the world has the poverty, sickness, and filth you'll find there. But this is where Mother Teresa decided she was going to make a difference. The statistics show that over the years more than forty-two thousand people were treated at an abandoned Hindu temple that she was able to acquire and convert into the Kalighat Home for the Dying. The nuns would go out and literally take from the streets of Calcutta those who were sick and dying and bring them to the home, where they received love and kindness. To many it would seem like a hopeless and thankless task. More than nineteen thousand died there, but at least they died in a place where people were caring for and loving them.

Mother Teresa's story gradually became known to the world. People were stunned by this inspiring departure from the usual prevalent attitude of "it's terrible, but I can't do anything about it." People simply couldn't comprehend this little dynamo who had created her own order of sisters to help the sick, dying, and needy. As a result, she had a tremendous impact on the world. Perhaps the reason the world has heard of this woman who labored in a faraway place is that she lived her life with a deep understanding of what mattered most, a commitment to doing something about those things, and a willingness to sacrifice the energy of her life for and on behalf of the people to whom she had dedicated it.

Robert Niederholzer

As I look back and seriously reflect on those who personally impacted me in life-changing ways, one of the major players was Robert Niederholzer. I grew up in the Hawaiian Islands. My father and mother moved our family there in 1946 when I was two years old. My father had accepted the chairmanship of the speech department at the University of Hawaii. The plan was to spend two years in Hawaii and then return to the University of Utah where my father had his residency. Our family liked Hawaii so well that we ended up staying thirty years, so I spent my early years, up through high school, in Honolulu.

When I was a junior in high school, my father accepted an exchange teaching job with a teacher from New York University. He swapped jobs and homes for one year as a cross-pollination effort on the part of both institutions for two of their senior professors. So I got to spend my junior year of high school in Douglaston, Long Island, and attended Bayside High School. If you want an interesting experience in culture shock, you ought to move from a small high school in Honolulu to a major public high school in New York City — 300 kids in Hawaii, 4,500 kids in New York. It was an amazing experience. When I returned to Hawaii for my senior year, my homeroom teacher turned out to be a new addition to the faculty — not a local person from the islands but a man from the mainland, Robert Niederholzer.

Like many in the class, I was upset that our homeroom teacher for our last year in high school was an outsider, and not even a local person but somebody from the mainland. How awful! It didn't take us long to recognize, however, that Robert Niederholzer was a very different kind of teacher. Up to my senior year, being successful scholastically was not one of my long suits. If I maintained a C average in my classes, I was delighted. I was interested in lots of other stuff besides homework, exams, and the kinds of things that should be focused on when you're in high school. Instead, I was very involved in athletics and participated in basketball, softball, swimming, tennis, and some track events. I was also very much involved in high school politics as senior class president, and so the "school" part of school was just sort of a hindrance to me.

I had never been much of a reader until my senior year in high school. I didn't enjoy reading; I was slow at it and so didn't do much of it. Mr. Niederholzer changed all that. For the first time in my life I found myself discovering the magic of learning from books. It started with his insisting that I read the first volume of Bruce Catton's classic trilogy The History of the Civil War. This is where my fascination with the Civil War began. I fell in love with that period of American history and in later years found myself, whenever I could, visiting battlefields all over the South and central Northeast looking for the sites where those amazing events took place.

It was interesting to me how Mr. Niederholzer did it. It wasn't a matter of his saying, "Gee, I think you ought to read this book, Hyrum." It was, "You will read this book. You have five days." It was something he insisted on. Initially, out of fear, I would start the books, but by the time I was into the second or third chapter, I was hooked. I think he knew I would be hooked and would get the assignments done. When one book was finished, he immediately had one following it. I probably read more books that year than in all previous years of my schooling put together.

During that time a statement my father had made when I was much younger started to make sense to me. He said, "You cannot think any deeper than your vocabulary will allow you to." As I read the books for Mr. Niederholzer's class, I realized that the best way to build a vocabulary is to read. When you discover a word you don't understand, look up its meaning so you will know what the author is trying to say. I found myself doing that, and my vocabulary started to build. (Speaking of vocabularies, I have heard it said that Winston Churchill had one of the largest vocabularies of anybody alive. And recent studies seem to indicate that a large vocabulary is one of the common denominators of truly successful people.)

Robert Niederholzer was by no means a conventional kind of teacher. There were times that year when I got angry at the pressure he was putting on me. There were times when I thought there was no way I would get everything read. He seemed to sense what my capacity was and never stretched me further than I could endure, but he was always there, insisting and pushing and driving and demanding that I perform.

It's interesting to look back on an experience like that. Now I have this intense appreciation for this man for caring enough to push me the way he did. In retrospect I realize that he really did love me and the rest of the kids in that class. You could tell that by what he was willing to do for and with us. It wasn't just a seven-hour-a-day job for him. He was on the phone with us, he was in our homes; we were in his home, we went on retreats together. He did everything he could to introduce us to the power of our minds. As Kahlil Gibran said in his book of poetry, The Prophet, "A great teacher does not lead you to the threshold of his or her knowledge but leads you to the threshold of your own mind." Robert Niederholzer was a master at doing that, and as a result of his passion and dedication, my life changed dramatically for the good in my senior year of high school.

As I look back now, Robert Niederholzer knew who he was and what he should be doing. In the process, he helped me and a lot of others discover something of who we were and what we could be doing.

A Profile of Those Who "Have It Together"

In looking at the lives of personal heroes, I want to emphasize that I am not talking about heroes strictly as role models. For example, Michael Jordan has been an inspiration and role model for many aspiring young basketball players, but you could spend a lot of frustrated and fruitless time trying to play basketball like Michael Jordan because you can't be Michael Jordan. The same goes for anyone we look up to and would like to emulate. The role of heroes in our lives doesn't work that way. The true role of heroes is to inspire us to be the best we are capable of being. In the well-known phrase from the U. S. Army enlistment commercials, "Be all that you can be."

Some of the most helpful things our heroes can demonstrate for us are the patterns characteristic of people who are "all that they can be." If we look at their lives and behavior, several such patterns begin to emerge. One overall pattern is that they achieve success in their lives. I don't mean success in the materialistic, monetary way it has come to be defined in our day. I mean success in terms of living in harmony with the good things deep within us and uniquely ours. In the introduction to this book I mentioned the leader who impacted my late teenage years and said, "Be yourself, but be that perfectly." To me all the heroes we've talked about did just that. They were and are themselves as perfect as they were capable of being.

Reflect on those people you have known who seemed to have it all together. Their success has come as much from who they are as from what they accomplished. They're generally optimistic, they exhibit an inner peace, and most often they succeed at what they try to accomplish — mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and temporally. Not every one of them will exhibit all the characteristics we've been talking about, but there are some basic ones that apply to most of them. Let's look at some of the patterns common among people who "have it together":

SELF-AWARENESS. These people know who they are. They know their abilities and strengths, what they are capable of doing, and how to accomplish it. With the power that flows from such knowledge, they are capable of accomplishing the impossible even when physically small or frail (like Mother Teresa).

CONFIDENCE. They lack fear. Winston Churchill knew deep inside that he would not fail. Perhaps more than anything else, that confidence carried him and the people of Britain through that terrible trial in their history.

SELF-WORTH. This is most often evidenced in their focus, not on themselves but on those they serve and work with. We saw this evidenced by Mother Teresa and my tough but loving high school teacher, Mr. Niederholzer, who cared enough to light the lamp of learning within me.

A SENSE OF URGENCY. This means a "divine impatience" about everything they do. Winston Churchill impatiently went to bed at 3 o'clock in the morning after having all the burdens of being prime minister placed on him. Such people can't wait for the sun to come up.

A STRONG SENSE OF PERSONAL MISSION. There is a vision of what needs to be done and a passion and focus about doing it. Throughout her lifetime Mother Teresa remained intensely focused on what she felt was a call from God to ease the pain and suffering of the poor.

PERSONAL MAGNETISM. People are drawn to them, and they are able to give "the sure sound of the trumpet." Churchill was able to rally the British people under circumstances that could have made many fail.

AWARENESS AND RESPECT FOR THEIR OWN UNIQUENESS. They don't compare themselves to others or worry about what they're not. Their focus is on what they are.

A CONSISTENCY TO THEIR LIVES. They are not tossed to and fro with every new idea or opportunity or change of events. Like Mother Teresa, some inner sense of consistency keeps them moving toward accomplishing their personal mission in spite of everything that is going on around them.

A SENSE OF CALMNESS AND SERENITY. They are often people who can keep their heads when all about them are losing theirs.

These patterns are not just the exclusive property of the great and successful people of the world. This book is dedicated to the premise that each of us is capable of being ourselves perfectly, of knowing who we are and being able to draw upon the power that comes from that personal and very special knowledge. You are a unique creation, one of a kind, endowed with your own particular mix of talents, abilities, strengths, weaknesses, inner dreams, and potential.

In order to realize who you are, you'll have to be painfully honest with yourself. You may have to set aside a lot of baggage. You may have to deal with others who have good intentions but no right to tell you who or what you should be.

In the process you'll find a sense of purpose that may have been hidden for a long time. You'll also discover a deep and abiding faith in yourself and, more than likely, a strength that comes both from within and, I believe, from spiritual forces beyond yourself. Most of all, you will be able to find the courage to be truly and perfectly YOU.

Copyright © 2000 by Hyrum W. Smith

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Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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