When I started this collection of ‘Challenge and Inspire’ writings I was 23. I would write done any short stories, quotes and phrases in a black spiral bound journal. Now we tag, curate and collect them online, but I still add them here.
Hell or heaven?
An old Lama in a mountain monastery was nearing his death. One of the monks came to him and said: “Master, we want you to know that the whole monastery is praying that you be reborn in the highest heaven.”
“Don’t pray for that!” he exclaimed. “Pray that I be reborn in Hell.”
The student was shocked. “Why would we pray for that? You are such a kind and compassionate soul. You do not belong in hell!”
The master replied: “But where else are kindness and compassion more needed that in hell?”
Why are you not included?
Make a list of five people who you admire. Next list the qualities and attitudes that you most admire in these people. Do not read any further until you have created the two lists.
Now are you on that list? Think about why or why not. If you failed to include yourself, as most people do, write your name at number six. The chances are you chose these people because you possess traits that resemble theirs. Notice of the similarities, you may possess these qualities in latent form if the similarities are not immediately apparent, go on, reveal yourself.
Captain of the Great Britain team in the LA Games. On addressing his team mates Daley Thompson noted one important difference between and his fellow athletes;
You practice until you get it right. I practice until I never get it wrong.
At the 1984 Games Thompson went onto outrun, out-jump, out throw and out talk his great German rival, not only to win the gold medal but also regain the world record with 8743 points.
During his career, Ripken played in 2,632 consecutive games. Physical and mental conditioning prepared him for the rigors of playing virtually every day for six straight months for 21 seasons. One might even argue that luck played a part in avoiding injury that could have ended the consecutive game streak. But Cal felt that there had to be more to achieving this feat. Using his baseball uniform number, he set a goal to identify eight characteristics of an individual who demonstrates perseverance. These are the characteristics he identified:
1. Take the right approach: always be ready to play.
2. Have a strong will to succeed: don’t let setbacks stop you from achieving your goal.
3. Have passion for what you do: love what you do.
4. Be competitive: its not just about beating your opponent. You have to internalize competitiveness and take pride in what you do.
5. Be consistent: recognize and adjust to change so that you are always able to make a contribution to your team.
6. Have conviction: you have to be a little bit stubborn.
7. Strength: you have to be in good physical and mental condition. You must be psychologically and emotionally prepared.
8. Personal management: don’t duck potential problems; take on the problems directly to prevent small problems from building into bigger problems.
Lion or gazelle?
Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle; when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.
What is your deepest fear?
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference,’ attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr.
Some people will be as lazy as you allow them to be. Stern measures may be the only way to reform them. When a mother eagle is pregnant she builds an aerie high up on the ledge of a cliff. There she births and nurtures her young hatchlings. When the mother decides they’ve lived long enough in the nest, she lifts them up with her beak and drops them over the edge. It’s a long way down. Those who wish to fly have a golden opportunity to learn. The lazy ones are in for a big surprise. Bobby Bowden.
(The Chinese use the symbols for opportunity and danger to represent the word crisis.)
Believe in bumblebees
Scientists interested in how the bumblebee navigates to and from the hive discovered that aerodynamically the bee should not be able to fly. Their body is too large and creates too much drag and their wings aren’t big or powerful enough to get that much weight off the ground. Apparently this research was done in Switzerland or Germany, regardless the point of the story: the bumblebee doesn’t know any of that stuff so just gets on with business collecting pollen and is obviously a wonderful flyer!! Despite what people might tell you, you can be as good as YOU want to be. Alan Kirkup.
Your life is too complicated
Your life is too complicated – simplify, simplify.
Your life is too complicated – simplify.
Life is too complicated – simplify.
Life is complicated – simplify.
Life’s complicated – simplify.
Life: complicated. Simplify.
The struggle is part of the conquest
A young man was sitting, working at his desk, when he noticed a butterfly on his window sill trying to break free from its cocoon. As the hours past he watched the butterfly struggling to break free and started to feel sorry for the determined insect. So he went to help the butterfly and gently broke open the cocoon, leaving the butterfly there to fly out. Later that day he notices the butterfly was still there and that it was walking along the window sill, but not flying. The point is, the butterfly could not fly and never would. The young man failed to realise that when a butterfly is coming out of a cocoon it is meant to struggle so the fluids in it’s wings could drain and the wings would become strong. Since the young man helped the butterfly it hadn’t had to struggle and instead of being strong it was unable fly. Life is designed to build strength, the struggle is an important part of the conquest.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. Theodore Roosevelt
The power of not knowing
A cowboy rode into town and stopped at a saloon for a drink. Unfortunately, the locals had a habit of picking on strangers. When he finished his drink, he found his horse had been stolen. He went back into the bar and with a quick move of his hands, he flipped his guns into the air, caught them above his head without even looking and fired at the ceiling.
“Which one of you sidewinders stole my horse!?” he yelled. No one answered.
“Alright, I’m gonna have another beer, and if my horse ain’t back outside by the time I finish, I’m gonna do what I dun in Texas! And I don’t like to have to do what I dun in Texas!”
Some of the locals shifted restlessly. He had another beer, walked outside, and his horse was back! As he swung up into the saddle and started to ride out of town, the bartender ran out of the saloon and asked, “Say partner, before you go… what happened in Texas?” The cowboy turned back and said, “I walked home.”
Making a difference
An old man went walking along the beach at dawn. Ahead of him what he saw a young man running, rhythmically bending down to pick up a starfish and throw it into the sea. The old man gazed in wonder as the young man rescuing hundreds of individual starfish, throwing them back into the water. The man approached the boy and said, “Young man, what are you doing? This appears to be a waste of your time?” The boy replied, “I’m just trying to save the starfish. You see, if these starfish are left in the sun they will most assuredly die.” “But son, don’t you realize that there are thousands of miles of beach and millions of starfish. How can your single effort possibly make any difference?” The young man looked down at the starfish in his hand and threw it to safety in the sea. Looking up, he said to the old man, “Sir, it makes a difference to that one.”
If a task is important and urgent, then we should be doing it now.
If a task is important but not urgent, then plan it.
If a task is not important and urgent, then don’t be tempted.
If a task is not important and not urgent, then don’t do it.
The longer I live
The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company … a church … a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude … I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you … we are in charge of our attitudes. Charles Swindoll
Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.
This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.
What makes the wheel strong?
See beyond what is seen.
In the 3rd century BC, the Chinese emperor Liu Bang celebrated his consolidation of China with a banquet, where he sat surrounded by his nobles and military and political experts. Since Liu Bang was neither noble by birth nor an expert in military or political affairs, some of the guests asked one of the military experts, Chen Cen, why Liu Bang was the emperor. In a contemporary setting, the question would probably have been: ‘What added value does Liu Bang bring to the party?’ Chen Cen’s response was to ask the questioner a question in return: ‘What determines the strength of a wheel?’ One guest suggested that the strength of the wheel was in its spokes, but Chen Cen countered that two sets of spokes of identical strength did not necessarily make wheels of identical strength. On the contrary, the strength was also affected by the spaces between the spokes, and determining the spaces was the true art of the wheelwright. Thus, while the spokes represent the collective resources necessary to an organization’s success-and the resources that the leader lacks-the spaces represent the autonomy for followers to grow into leaders themselves. In sum, holding together the diversity of talents necessary for organizational success is what distinguishes a successful leader from an unsuccessful one: Leaders don’t need to be perfect, but they do have to recognize that their own limitations will ultimately doom them to failure unless they rely upon their subordinate leaders and followers to fill in the gaps. So find a good wheelwright and start the organizational wheel moving. In effect, leadership is the property and consequence of a community, rather than the property and consequence of an individual leader. Chen Chen.
Your time at school / college.
Achaan Cha looked down and smiled faintly. He picked up the glass of drinking water to his left. Holding it up, he said “You see this goblet? To me it is already broken. I enjoy it; I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably, sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns. If I should tap it, it has a lovely ring to it. But when I put this glass on a shelf and the wind knocks it over or my elbow brushes it off the table and it falls to the ground and shatters.”
“Of course.” I hear you answered the student.
”But understand this, only when you think that the glass is already broken, is its true valued revealed. Is every moment with it is precious.”
‘Mr Meant has a comrade, and his name is didn’t do. Have you ever has the chance to meet them? Did they ever call on you? These two fellows lived together, in the house of never win. And I am told house is haunted by the ghost of what might have been.’
‘In 1957, Dr. C. P. Richter of the Psychobiological Laboratory of Johns Hopkins Medical School carried out an experiment that attempted to measure the motivational effect of hope. The experiments involved placing rats into cylinders of water thirty inches deep and eight inches wide. After a short time, half the rats were momentarily rescued — lifted out the of the cylinder for a few seconds, then put back into the water. The other half were not. The group that was given hope swam for more than three days. The other rats drowned almost immediately.’
Remember this your lifetime through, tomorrow there will be more to do.
And failure waits for all who stay with some success made yesterday.
Tomorrow you must try once more, and even harder than before.
The Indispensable Man
Sometimes when you’re feeling important
Sometimes when your ego’s in bloom
Sometimes when you take it for granted
You’re the most informed man in the room.
Sometimes when you feel that your leaving
Would leave an unfillable hole
Just follow these simple instructions
And see how it humbles your soul
Take a bucket and fill it with water
Put your hands in up to the wrist
Pull them out and the hole that you leave
Is just how much you would be missed
Splash all you please as you enter
Stir up all the water galore
But stop, and in that split moment
It looks just the same as before
The moral of this is quite simple
Do just the best that you can
Be proud of yourself but remember
There is no indispensable man
What I asked for and what I got.
I asked for strength, that I might achieve,
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health, that I might do greater things,
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy,
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men,
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of others.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life,
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things
I got nothing that I asked for—but everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among all people, most richly blessed.
Lead by example.
A mother once brought her little girl to Gandhi and asked him, “will you tell my girl not to eat sugar?”
“Bring her back to me in three weeks,” Gandhi replied.
When the mother returned with the girl in three weeks, Gandhi told her, “don’t eat sugar; it is not good for you.”
Why did you wait three weeks to tell her that?” asked the mother.
“Because,” said Gandhi, “three weeks ago I was eating sugar.”
Highest rated attributes of fortune 500 CEOs
Decisiveness, Leadership, Integrity, Enthusiasm, Imagination, Willingness to work hard, Analytical ability, Understanding others, Ability to spot opportunity, Ability to face adversity
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.
The future ain’t what it used to be.
Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra is a former MLB player and manager. He played almost his entire career for the New York Yankees and was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame 1972. Berra, who quit school in the eighth grade, has a tendency toward malapropism and fracturing the English language in highly provocative, interesting ways. Simultaneously denying and confirming his reputation, Berra once stated, “I never said half the things I really said.” (See Yogiisms.)
Never stop trying – General Patton.
Today you must do more than is required of you. Never think that you have done enough or that your job is finished. There is always something that can be done, something that can help ensure victory. You cant let others be responsible for getting you started. You must be a self starter. You must possess that spark of the individual initiative that sets the leader apart from the led. Self motivation is the key to being one step ahead of everyone else and standing head and shoulders above the crowd. Once you get going don’t stop. Always be on the look out for the chance to do something better. Never stop trying to fill yourself with the warrior spirit and send the warrior into action.
What it takes to be No 1
‘Winning is not a sometimes thing; it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing. There is no room for second place. There is only one place in my game, and that’s first place. I have finished second twice in my time at Green Bay, and I don’t ever want to finish second again. There is a second place bowl game, but it is a game for losers played by losers. It is and always has been an American zeal to be first in anything we do, and to win, and to win, and to win.
Every time a football player goes to ply his trade he’s got to play from the ground up – from the soles of his feet right up to his head. Every inch of him has to play. Some guys play with their heads. That’s O.K. you’ve got to be smart to be number one in any business. But more importantly, you’ve got to play with your heart, with every fibre of your body. If you’re lucky enough to find a guy with a lot of head and a lot of heart, he’s never going to come off the field second.
Running a football team is no different than running any other kind of organization – an army, a political party or a business. The principles are the same. The object is to win – to beat the other guy. Maybe that sounds hard or cruel. I don’t think it is. It is a reality of life that men are competitive and the most competitive games draw the most competitive men. That’s why they are there – to compete. To know the rules and objectives when they get in the game. The object is to win fairly, squarely, by the rules – but to win.And in truth, I’ve never known a man worth his salt who in the long run, deep down in his heart didn’t appreciate the grind, the discipline. There is something in good men that really yearns for discipline and the harsh reality of head to head combat. I don’t say these things because I believe in the “brute” nature of man or that men must be brutalized to be combative. I believe in God, and I believe in human decency. But I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour – his greatest fulfilment to all he holds dear – is that moment when he has to work his heart out in a good cause and he’s exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.’
As a young man, Abraham Lincoln went to war a captain and returned a private. Afterwards, he was a failure as a businessman. As a lawyer in Springfield, he was too impractical and temperamental to be a success. Winston Churchill failed sixth grade. He was subsequently defeated in every election for public office until he became Prime Minister at the age of 62. Socrates was called “an immoral corrupter of youth” and continued to corrupt even after a sentence of death was imposed on him. Sigmund Freud was booed from the podium when he first presented his ideas to the scientific community of Europe. Thomas Edison’s teachers said he was “too stupid to learn anything.” He was fired from his first two jobs for being “non-productive.” Albert Einstein did not speak until he was 4-years-old and did not read until he was 7.
As a man he failed and went broke five times before he succeeded. Kurt Warner bagged groceries, played Arena ball, then American Football in NFL Europe before posting one of the best individual seasons in NFL history and Super Bowl success to boot.
The bamboo story
You prepare the soil, pick the right spot, then plant the Chinese Bamboo seed. You water it and wait. You wait an entire year and….. nothing appears. No bud, no twig, nothing. So you keep watering and protecting the area and taking care of the future plant, and you wait some more. You wait another year and still, nothing happens. You are a persistent person not prone to giving up, so you keep on watering. Another year passes,you check the soil and, and there is still no sign of growth.
It has been three years. Should you give up? Someone told you that it might take a while to really see the fruits of your efforts, so you keep on, keeping on. More water, more care. You even offer a few kind words to encourage growth. Another year passes. You look around at all the other plants growing in the garden, their stunning beauty. No sign of a bamboo shoot.
So you begin year number five with the same passion as day number one, albeit deflated. You water, you wait. You keep watering and you keep waiting. You water some more and then, sometime during the fifth year…. could it be? Is it really? There, just showing through the dirt. The following day you return and you are left amazed, the bamboo has grown more in 24 hours than in the previous five years. In the six weeks that follow, it continues to grow approximately three feet every day, until it is over 80 feet tall! Yes, 80 feet in six weeks! Well, not really. It is 80 feet in five years.
The point is simple. If you had given up for even the shortest period of time, there would be no tree. The bamboo has spent the five years growing its extensive root network, in preparing for this explosive growth. Those roots made the bamboo strong enough, before it even made pursuit for the sun. Not all rewards are immediately achieved.
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
The experiences of camp life show that a man does have a choice of action. There were enough examples, often of a heroic nature, which proved that apathy could be overcome, irritability suppressed. Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress. We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s way. The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity—even in the most difficult circumstances—to add a deeper meaning to life.
You got a dream… You gotta protect it. People can’t do somethin’ themselves, they wanna tell you you can’t do it. If you want somethin’, go get it. Period. Christopher Gardner in “The Pursuit of Happyness” (2006).>
Life is mean
Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that! Rocky Balboa (Rocky 2006)
Golf balls in a jar and two cups of coffee
When things in your lives seem too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and two cups of coffee.
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full? They agreed it was.
The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up all the open spaces in the jar. He asked once more if the jar was full? The students responded with a unanimous “YES”!
The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the granules of sand. The students laughed.
“Now”, said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things — your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions, and if everything else was lost, and only they remained, your life would still be full.
The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.
The sand is everything else, the small stuff. If you put the sand into the jar first, he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.
The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.
“Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children, take the time to get medical check-ups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. ‘Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”
One of the students raised their hand and inquired what the coffee represented? The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked.”
It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple cups of coffee with a friend.”
The two wolves
A Native American grandfather was talking to his grandson about how he felt. He said, “I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is the vengeful, angry and violent. I feel the arch in his back, and hear his rasping snarl. The other wolf is the loving and compassionate. The leader of the pack. Strong willed and determined.” The grandson asked him, “Which wolf will win the fight in your heart grandfather?” The grandfather answered: “The one I feed.”
A Life Worth Saving
A man risked his life by swimming through the treacherous riptide to save a youngster being swept out to sea. After the child recovered from the harrowing experience, he said to the man, “Thank you for saving my life. The man looked into the little boy’s eyes and said, “That’s okay, kid. Just make sure your life was worth saving.” A man risked his life by swimming through the treacherous riptide to save a youngster being swept out to sea. After the child recovered from the harrowing experience, he said to the man, “Thank you for saving my life. The man looked into the little boy’s eyes and said, “That’s okay, kid. Just make sure your life was worth saving.”
The Seventeen Camel Conundrum
A Father left his seventeen camels to his children. His Will gave half to the eldest, a third to another & one ninth to the youngest.
After many years of squabbling & fighting they went to see a Wise One to resolve the issue…
…. You are that Wise One. What would you do?
The Wise One gave the children one more camel. The children now had eighteen camels. The eldest got half (nine camels), the next got a third (six camels) and the youngest got one ninth (two camels). In total that is seventeen camels and so the Wise One got her camel back.
Unforgettable elementary student, Mark Eklund, was a likeable but frustrating student because of his inability to stay quiet in class. One day his kind and patient teacher asked everyone in the class to write down each student’s name and also write the nicest thing they could think of about that person.
Years later, the teacher got word that Mark Eklund had died in Vietnam and that she was asked to attend his funeral. Mark’s family showed her that the piece of paper from junior-high with other student’s kind remarks about him had been carried in his wallet until the day he died. The teacher then heard that other students had also saved their pieces of paper from that day and how much it had meant to them.
At fifteen, John Goddard listed 127 goals he wished to experience or achieve in his lifetime. Secondary school teachers across the land should thank John for the almost perfect coincidental timing. I fairly regularly share John Goddard’s story / bucket list with a wide range of pupils, for a wide range of reasons actually, though mainly to enliven the stagnated traditional goal-setting motivational sessions out Y10 / Y11 endure. It is simply amazing what you can achieve when you commit to writing your list down. Inspiring and humbling when you review the audacity of John’s original list, a second dose of humble pie, when your consider his achievements.