Not long ago I was signing books after speaking to a large crowd at a convention center. Whenever I speak, I try to make myself available to sign books, shake hands, and chat with people. This particular day the line was long, and I was signing as quickly as I could to try to get to everyone waiting.
A lady stepped up and handed me a book to sign, and she said, “For the last eight years I have been reading your books and listening to your teaching. You have given to me a wonderful gift, and I am grateful.”
I stopped writing and for a moment I wondered what that gift might be. Was it the simplicity of my teaching? Practicality? Humor? I was curious, so I asked, “What is the wonderful gift I have given you?”
“Hope.” She continued, “Whenever I read your books or listen to you, I leave with hope. Thank you.”
She took her book and left, but her words did not leave me. I was very grateful, because my desire is always to add value to people, and if she became more hopeful, then I felt I had indeed added value to her.
As you undoubtedly know, leadership is one of my passions. I learn about it every day, and it is one of my great joys to teach it to others. As a leader and writer, I want to be someone who gives others hope. I believe that if a leader helps people believe the impossible is possible, it makes the impossible probable. So as you read this chapter, regardless of what losses you face or difficulties you must overcome, keep your head up. Losses in life are never fun, but there is one loss no one can afford to experience—the loss of hope. If you lose hope, that may be your last loss, because when hope is gone, so is motivation and the ability to learn.
Hope is a beautiful thing. It shines brightest when the hour is darkest. Hope sings when all melodies are gone. It believes when the evidence is limited. Hope gives to us even when we have little or nothing left. It is one of the most precious things we have in life.
Hope is inspiring. It gives us the motivation for living and learning. I say that for several reasons:
1. Hope Says Yes to Life
Author and theologian Paul Tillich was asked about the central theme of his book The Courage to Be shortly before he died. Tillich said the book was about real courage: saying yes to life in spite of all the hardship and pain which are part of human existence. It takes courage to find something positive and meaningful about ourselves and life every day. That, he said, was the key to living life more fully. “Loving life,” he stated, “is perhaps the highest form of the courage to be.”
Where does a person find the courage to say yes to life? I believe it comes from hope. In life, you must expect trouble. You must expect adversity. You must expect conflict. But those facts don’t mean you have to lose hope. You can take the advice of Ann Landers, who said, “Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life and when it comes, hold your head high, look it squarely in the eye, and say, ‘I will be bigger than you. You cannot defeat me.’”
2. Hope Fills Us with Energy
It’s been said that a person can live forty days without food, four days without water, four minutes without air, but only four seconds without hope. Why? Hope provides the power that energizes us with life. Hope is a powerful thing. It keeps us going when times are tough. It creates excitement in us for the future. It gives us reasons to live. It gives us strength and courage.
I think it’s no coincidence that people who suffer with depression often lack energy. Lack of hope and lack of energy usually go hand in hand. People who have a hard time believing in themselves have a difficult time finding the energy to cope with life and its challenges. In contrast, hope-filled people are energetic. They welcome life and all that it brings—even its challenges.
3. Hope Focuses Forward
Our yesterdays have a tendency to invade our todays with negativism, stealing our joy and hope. If we dwell on them too much, they threaten to rob us of our future. That’s why I like these words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Finish each day and be done with it. . . . You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it well and serenely.”
Hope always has a future. It leans forward with expectation. It desires to plan for tomorrow. And that opens us up to greater possibilities. Are you looking forward? Do you have hope for the future? If you have high expectations for tomorrow, then you probably want to meet it at your best. How do you do that? By growing, learning, and improving. Lack of hope breeds indifference toward the future. Hope brings motivation.
Hope is our greatest asset and the greatest weapon we can use to battle our losses when they seem to be mounting. If you want to find the motivation to learn in the face of your losses, to keep working to get better tomorrow than you are today, to reach your potential and fulfill your purpose, then make use of the difference maker. Embrace hope.
Adapted from Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn (available NOW for presale HERE!)