Steve Jobs once said, “Life is lived going forward, but it is understood looking backward,” and it often takes a while to see the good in the bad things that have happened to us.
A case in point involved an incident in the life of the writer, Ernest Hemingway, whose straightforward prose and understated style of writing won him the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Before he became a celebrated writer, Hemingway worked for many years as a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Daily Star. He reported during the day and wrote fiction at night. In the winter of 1922 while on assignment in Lausanne, France, he invited his wife, Elizabeth, to join him for Christmas. For reasons still unknown, she decided to carry the manuscripts of one of his novels in progress with her.
On the train to Lauasanne, however, the bag carrying his manuscripts was stolen! Elizabeth got off the train, weeping. Hemingway told her not to worry and that he had made carbon copies of all his writings. Through her tears and sobs, Elizabeth told him that those carbon copies had also been in the bag that had been stolen!
One can only imagine the writer’s chagrin.
But to his great credit, Hemingway did not give up. Instead, he found an interesting way to adapt to the reality of the situation. With the pressure of time deadlines weighing heavily on him, Hemingway shifted his writing style to shorter sentences, cleaner paragraphs and more readable prose. He could write faster this way, and this new method of expressing himself went on to become his signature literary style!
Four years later, his book, The Sun Also Rises, was published and became a bestseller. The rest, as they say, is history.
Hemingway became a better writer because of the biggest disaster ever to befall his early career. Sometimes it is only in retrospect that we understand the value of our troubles.
Have a great week! And keep the faith!
The story is told of a young woman who had taken ballet lessons all through her childhood and who now felt ready to make a career of it. So, when a leading ballet company came to town, she went to meet the ballet master.
“I want to be a ballerina,” she said, “but I don’t know if I have the talent.”
The master asked her to dance, & after only a minute or so he shook his head. “No, no,” he said. “You don’t have what it takes.”
The young woman went home, heartbroken, tossed her ballet slippers in the closet & never wore them again. Many years later the ballet company visited her small town again. She attended the ballet, & on the way out, ran into the old master, now in his eighties.
She reminded him that they had met before, and they made small talk. She then said, “There’s just one thing that’s always bothered me. How could you tell me so quickly that I didn’t have what it takes?”
“Oh, I barely looked at you when you danced,” he said. “That’s what I tell everyone who comes to me.”
“But that’s unforgivable,” the woman exclaimed. “You ruined my life! Maybe I could have been a great prima ballerina!”
“No, I don’t think so,” said the old master. “If you had had what it takes, you wouldn’t have paid any attention to what I said.”
The ballet master’s words give us food for thought. — It is easy to succumb to the voices that tell us that we don’t have what it takes. But those who overcome, achieve and win are those who choose instead to listen to the deeper, affirming voice within them that tells them to press on, keep moving forward and not quit.
As the poet Edgar Guest so eloquently put it…
Somebody said that it couldn’t be done,
But he with a chuckle replied
That “Maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing, as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, & he did it.
Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it”
But he took off his coat & he took off his hat,
And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin & a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or ‘quit it’,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, & he did it.
There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done.
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat & go to it;
Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing
That “cannot be done,” & you’ll do it.
Have a great week!
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE!
Frank Capra’s 1946 film, It’s a Wonderful Life, is considered one of the greatest movies of all time. It was nominated for five Oscars, and has been recognised by the American Film Institute as one of the 100 best American films ever made.
The film begins with two lights blinking in the sky high above the earth. These two lights, we learn, are two angels talking to each other. The smaller light is Clarence Odbody, a novice angel, who is being given an assignment by the bigger light, his angelic supervisor.
Clarence’s task is to go and help a man on earth called George Bailey who needs help urgently.
“Is he sick?” asks Clarence.
“Worse,” replies Clarence’s supervisor. “He is discouraged.”
George Bailey, it turns out, is a good man who has led a kind, helpful and sacrificial life, but in the process has missed out on gaining wealth and fame. Tonight he is in the depths of despair, for he has been brought to the verge of ruin by an unscrupulous businessman. Clarence goes down to earth, manages to stop George from harming himself, but try as he might, is unable to cheer him up.
Finally, George Bailey says, ‘I wish I had never been born!”
And suddenly Clarence knows how to help George.
He shows George an alternative reality – the world as it would have been had he (George) never been born! As George walks through this version of the world, no one in his town recognises him. All the people he had helped throughout his life are leading sad and difficult lives because there was no George to help them in their time of trouble. Some people whose lives he had actually saved aren’t even around.
George starts to see clearly that his life hasn’t been a failure after all, that he has done much good and helped many people. Finally convinced that Clarence is his guardian angel, George begs for his life back. The original reality is restored, and a grateful George rushes home.
It is a powerful movie with a powerful message. — There is much to be grateful for in each of our lives. As George sees his life from a different perspective, he realises that each of his sacrifices has, as in fact, counted for a lot. Despite all his struggles, his life is truly priceless because he is rich in the things that actually matter — love, respect, goodwill, and friendship.
Listen to what Hollywood actress Jodie Foster has to say about the movie…
And do watch the film when you get a chance. You won’t regret it.
Have a great week!