Years ago, in doing research for a Football Character Presentation, I came across an interesting tidbit from our Founding Fathers. Both George Washington and John Adams used similar lines in letters they wrote during the American Revolution:
“No one can guarantee success. I can guarantee something better. We will deserve success”
“It is not in the power of any man to command success; but you have done more – you have deserved it.”
It’s a line from the Play “Cato” by Joseph Addison, one of the most popular plays of the time that Washington is said to have seen multiple times. The line from the play is even better, “We can’t guarantee success, we can do something better, we can deserve it.”
Remember the line “My only regret is that I have but one life to lose for my country” quoted from Nathan Hale, a school teacher from Connecticut, captured by the British as a spy and hanged. It’s not his line, it too, is from the play “Cato.”
These men resorted to what was in effect scripture. They were also throwing those lines back at the British, because after all, Addison was a British playwright. Most of our Founding Fathers and the men who signed the Declaration of Independence were educated men. They were well versed in the classics and quoted lines from those classics like we quote Lincoln, Roosevelt and Churchill. There was no American history at that time, so history for them was Greek and Roman.
The Declaration of Independence includes the line, “When in the course of human events.” The operative word in that line is human, human events. Our founding fathers were not gods, they were human beings; complete with flaws, failings, and inconsistencies. They made mistakes, they did things they regretted, some were overly ambitious, some could be jealous, vain, even duplicitous at times. The miracle is that these imperfect human beings rose to the occasion, worked together and succeeded against the odds.
According to a well cited Stanford University study, success is determined by your attitude 92% of the time, only 8% of the time by our innate ability. The British certainly had more innate ability in warfare than the colonists.
Success begins within and then comes outward. Believe you will be successful, visualize the success in your mind, create the feeling of success in your heart and then allow your actions to deliver that success. In the summer of 1981 I had a conversation with my brother about the upcoming football season and I shared with him that I believed in every game there would be an opportunity for me to intercept a pass. I would need to be in the right place by working hard at studying films and reading the offensive setup, I would need to make the right decision and trust my judgments and I would need to make the play (not drop the ball). In other words, I would need to do everything ahead of time to deserve success. In the fall of 1981, I led the nation in interceptions. No one in college football, at any school, at any level, had more. I averaged almost one interception a game.
Success in most sports is a quick first step, decisive and in the right direction. In business a quick, decisive first step in the right direction will beat your competitors to the opportunity.
A quick first step can overcome a gap in talent. A quick first step is placing more force into the ground faster, otherwise known as Rate of Force Development or how fast an athlete can develop force. Force is something that causes a change in the motion of an object. Isaac Newton’s laws of motion define force as an object’s mass multiplied by its rate of change of velocity per unit of time (acceleration). That force also needs to act quickly. The British army had greater numbers (larger mass) but moved methodically and within a bureaucratic authoritative system – it was lumbering and took a long drawn out first step.
Founding Father, John Adams was inspired after hearing a sermon on the Old Testament’s Isaiah chapter 35 and it’s analogous with the prophetic success for the emerging nation. America was the Wilderness that will exult, the crocus that will bloom abundantly and America will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God.
The Gospel of John (15:4-5) lays out the path for deserving success, “Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” Without Him, we cannot. Without us, He will not. If we do not depend on Jesus, there can be no real, long-lasting and abiding success. Jesus needs us to allow Him to work in our lives. There is no greater measure of success than to succeed where it matters most.
With all due respect to Mick and Keith, you can’t always get what you want, nor do you get what you need. You get what you deserve. Almost 250 years ago, even though we wanted and even needed our independence, I am thankful the Founding Fathers deserved it. Flawed and failed human beings with an attitude and confidence of success.
God Bless America.