he Collegiate Letter   

The Collegiate Letter Keys to Accomplishment

By Dave Breese

First of all, let me wish for you a most marvelous holiday season. It's hard to believe that Thanksgiving and Christmas come so quickly after summer, but nevertheless, here we are. You will notice that time seems to move faster as the years go by. Someone else has said, “With age, the days seem to move slower and the years move faster.” Nevertheless, here we are at nearly the end of a very remarkable year. I think it is a good thing that the year ends with the holidays, thereby going out with a song rather than with a whimper.

The holidays, of course, mark a time in which a brief review can be profitable. During these thoughtful days, we do well, once again, to ask the question, “How am I doing?” “Are there serious signs of progress in my life?” “What can I do to improve the trajectory of my personal life?” Musing along these lines the other day, it occurred to me that there are at least seven characteristics of accomplishment. I, therefore, took the time to write down seven words that are quite necessary to consider if we intend to make progress in life. Of course, if one does not intend to make progress in life, there is very little hope. Moving ahead is one of the great necessities of living. In case you are interested, I pass along those seven words, those “keys to accomplishment” which have been helpful to me. They are as follows:

Opportunity—This means, of course, that life is filled with these variables, different paths that I could follow. The greatest talent I will have in life is, therefore, the ability to see and then to seize opportunity. One who does not do this will die of boredom or something even worse.

Perception—This is the ability to see the difference between opportunity and some foolish time-wasting activity. Millions of people in today’s world are moving lazily along a pitiful pathway going nowhere and doing nothing. For want of perception—the ability to tell the difference between things—they see all things as being alike. Then they yawn and go back to sleep.

Capability—This is the purpose of study, of going to school. During these years, we learn to study, to type, to play the piano, to use the computer, to remember things. Even though it may seem like a nugatory activity at the moment, learning now develops capability which pays big dividends in the days to come. Opportunity means very little unless we have the capability to walk through the great open doors before us. We’ve heard it said about some people that “They were equal to the occasion.” On the other hand, often the sad note is sounded about a person that “He was unequal to the great challenge before him.” In fact, it is rumored that the very purpose of education is to develop the capability to rise to the occasions that are before us. It is a wise thing, therefore, to never become impatient with the educational process. What seems to be boring or irrelevant today will certainly stand us in good stead in the days to come.

Initiative—Most of the things that we contemplate in life, that we wish for, that we hope for, are greatly affected by the presence or absence of this mysterious thing called initiative. It is not enough to contemplate an occasion or to look on from the side lines. The great reward comes to those who play the game. It is the person who puts on the uniform and especially the helmet and who gets out among them—that’s the person who makes it happen. As you know, for many people, the story of life is the story of lost opportunity. Life has a ton of occasions that could have amounted to something quite terrific if only we had the wisdom and the spark of spontaneity to exercise a little initiative. No occasion is good or bad of itself, but it’s the use that we put to that occasion that makes the big difference. The person who says, “Let’s do it!” mixed with discretion, of course, is the one most likely to get ahead.

Let's Do It!
Execution—To the creative person, life is filled with dreams, ideas, and hopeful possibilities. It is the very rare vision, however, that comes to pass without the doing of things on our part. That surely is why the Bible says we are to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. If we only hear—but do not do—then we deceive ourselves. There are many, who even now regret the things they might have accomplished but which were lost for want of doing something on our part. Every house, first of all, must have a plan. However, if all that we do is contemplate the plan and don’t get out there and dig the foundation, our plans mean nothing! Plans are absolutely necessary, but they are only the first section of great accomplishment. Remember therefore, to dream the great dream, but as quickly as possible—and with the help of God—put a foundation under it.

Consummation—One of the easiest things in the world is to begin something. The world is filled with the initial stages of many a process, many an endeavor that was never completed. The besetting sin in the life of many people is that they began well but too soon became tired, distracted, cynical or disinterested. Remember, the real rewards of anything is not in how well you started, but how well you finished. When we march down the aisle to “Pomp and Circumstance” it will not be because we have started well. Rather, it will be the reward of years of hard labor in which we forced ourselves—heart, nerve, and sinew—to complete the job. For many people, perhaps you, there is no time to loose. Playing, dreaming, and drifting must come to an end and finishing the job must become first priority. Contemplation must be followed by strategic activity or it is but an empty dream upon which a great deal of time can be wasted.

Follow-Through—Almost every position that we own takes service, maintenance, continued attention. You may have accomplished the completion of a great project and on this we congratulate you. However, remember it is a dynamic world and not a static one. Without constant attention, windows grow dirty, paint peels off, engines need an oil change and everything needs a particular piece of attention. Some very beautiful and even completed projects soon teach us that creation and even completion are not the whole story.

Maintenance, follow-through, continuing attention now becomes the great necessity. Many a building has fallen in and many a vehicle has become unusable because no one committed himself to the program of maintenance. So life itself must be maintained. The great victories of days gone by are soon forgotten without follow-through. To have finished a project is to learn that in life, nothing is ever really finished. We say that we have completed a job, but in every case, that completion opens a door to two more jobs that need to be done. It may be dismaying, but it can be thrilling to learn that we have yet a task to do, yet a calling to fulfill.

On, Sail On
Much could be said about this whole matter of the maintenance of our enthusiasm and our responsibilities. Just so, the Bible advises us saying, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9). In some cases, enthusiasm waned to the place where Paul had to say about a certain friend: “...Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world...” (II Tim. 4:10). In many ways, God would advise us not to lay down our arms until the battle is truly done and we soon learn that the battle is never truly done until we move from this life into the life which is to come. Sustained enthusiasm is a very precious commodity. One day Thomas Edison was speaking to a friend. This friend asked him a perceptive question. He said, “Mr. Edison, you have tried nearly two thousand different materials to become a filament for your light bulbs and none of them has worked. Don’t you feel like quitting?” Edison’s answer was instructive. He reminded his friend that he now knew of 2,000 materials that would not work and that was a valuable piece of knowledge. This led him to a further attempt and this time it was using tungsten for a filament. It worked! As a result of Edison’s intrepid enthusiasm, we have the light bulb illuminating our pathway today. This same kind of persistence is useful in every pursuit of life.

“On, sail on” Columbus was told. He did and consequently we are here today.

Where do we get this enthusiasm to keep on keeping on? Contrary to popular expectation, it rarely comes from the environment. The surroundings will rarely be encouraging in the pursuit of great accomplishment. That’s why the Bible says, “He who observes the wind will not sow.” It is possible to prove the impossibility of almost anything if we make a serious attempt to do so. But the winner will not succumb to this argument. He reads in the Bible that “All things are possible to him that believes” (Mark 9:23). He sings with the hymn writer,

    Faith, mighty faith, the promise sees
    And looks to God alone
    Laughs at impossibilities
    And shouts “It shall be done!”

My friend, Bob Cook, God rest his soul, used to respond to most challenges by saying, “A thing can be done.” The results of that faith in his life and in the lives of many whom he influenced were marvelous.

To have and to retain this enthusiasm for life takes, of course, the presence of God in that life. Human enthusiasm will come to an end, but the life that is imbued with the presence of God has enthusiasm that will never wane and never expire. This is a truism that must be faced by every person. Many a humanist will ask us to “believe in ourselves and great things can then be accomplished.” This advise is motivating at the beginning, but very discouraging in the end. This, because human enthusiasm runs out before the task is done. The supply of heaven’s capability is a substance that can be profitably used by every Christian. Soon we will find ourselves singing:

  He giveth more grace as the burdens grow greater
  He sendeth more strength as our labors increase
  To added affliction He addeth His mercy
  To multiplied trials His multiplied peace.

My recommendation is to stand for the Lord, stand for Christ, stand for the Bible, stand for the Gospel because these are the commodities of value in our universe. Let me wish for you again a most blessed holiday season. Keep in touch and keep us posted as to how it is with you.