…[focus] your energy on the task at hand, finding the right combination of speed and accuracy, managing time, perservering when you feel like quitting.
Focus on one project at a time.
~Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney, authors of “WillPower”
As an athlete in high school, I can still recall how our basketball coach would quote Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., (American Baptist Minister and Civil Rights Leader who lived from 1929 to 1968).
In fact, our Coach’s favorite quote was the following:
If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.
For me, what is so clearly implied through this statement is that you must put all of yourself: mind and heart into every kind of work that you are required to do. Anything less will cause you to fall short of a full, honest, and mature effort. Of course these characteristics are by no means novel concepts. We can find them included in the manifestation of divinity as expressed through mankind’s spirituality. It is a big part of what we referred to in American history as the “Protestant Ethic”.
It is not and very likely never will be possible for any individual to fully measure up to the highest standard of excellence, virtue, and duty 100% of the time. Nevertheless, over time, others do come to depend upon on us for a reliable and earnest effort. This is especially true in societies like the United States, Canada and Western Europe.
This is largely the case because the majority of our guiding principles were historically born out of the ethical orientation of Judaism and later Christianity. Each provides prophetic figures that serve as models of "elemental humanity grounded in the will of the one God; the Ten (or similar) Commandments of God (the Decalogue) Kung, 1994 p.29). Add to this, the important values that we commonly learn at home, in school from teachers, coaches and through other social relationships and before you know it we have been significantly exposed to a body of knowledge that speaks to what is right, wrong, and unknown within our community. Our ability to grasp these concepts is not at issue. What is, is the seeming unwillingness on the part of some individuals to practice what is known and just how this can cause their vessel to go adrift.
During early childhood, following through adolescence, and all of our adult life we are constantly fighting from within to be that exception to abiding by the “house rules.” You needn’t look very far for examples. “As soon as things start to go poorly, the irresponsible among us will trot out their excuse and let themselves off the hook. Sooner or later, we all come to recognize that this incorrect attitude won’t really get us anywhere in the long run.
You and I both must strive to do the right thing in all manner of circumstances if we intend to maintain our integrity, hard earned trust, the respect of others, and to go on and live a life filled with meaning and purpose. So make a commitment to yourself to stand firm on your basic principles! Because if you relinquish them, bare in mind that there will be little left to support your inevitable fall. For this reason, I humbly appeal to you to strive to do everything in your power to avoid having to find this out for yourself. Because this is one of those things in life that is simply better left untried.