Success – we all want it! We all need it! As each day goes by, each of us strives to attain greater heights in our lives. Life is about growth. Every day should bring with it further success. When most of us are young, we tend to feel our achievements a lot easier. We work our way from kindergarten to primary school. From primary school to high school. From high school, we move onward. Some of us obtain a tertiary education – while others learn a craft. Some of us go on to work – just in order to be able to sustain ourselves. For the most part, this may constitute perhaps only a quarter of our lives.
Very often, many of us stop our formal educations at this point, continuing our lives by marrying, having a family and working in order to provide for them. None of this, however, detracts from our constant desire to want to grow further. None of it should! Everything in nature is in a constant state of growth. A human being is no different. While the seasons cause changes to nature (the ups and downs of life), there is a constant forward direction of growth. Trees grow – even if their leaves fall off from season to season and even though they bear fruit at only certain times of the year!
While the rapid development we experience as children seems to slow down as we become adults, we must not forget that each of us is on a continual journey for success! Each day is another day for rapid development – even when we are in our 70’s, 80’s or more.
With this, however, it can also become confusing as we begin to feel that “It is the strength and power of my hands that has achieved all this success” (Deuteronomy 8:17). In fact, everything we achieve is due to the help of others. We become what we do – not because of our own efforts. We become successes because there are so many helping us. From the moment we are born with the particular gifts we have – for free(!) – we move onward in our life to achieve what we can become. Our arms and legs are gifts from God. Our brains, our coordination skills, our strength – it is all a gift – with none of this achieved by ourselves! We start with a host of free gifts – which we often forget, taking it all for granted – as if we made even these things ourselves. Sometimes we may even forget that our stomachs work on their own – imagining that even here, we are in complete control of our systems – it is our success, something we have achieved all on our own!
We attend school with thanks to our parents, our family, or a community who looks after us, pays our school fees, and assists us to own the clothes and books we need when we are at school. Food is provided too! As we progress in our lives, becoming more of who we are are by ourselves, we can get trapped into thinking we are achieving everything ourselves.
The person who reaches the top of Mt. Everest, does not do so on their own – even though that selfie seems to declare that message loud and clear! Even here, this person will need a body suitable for climbing, a mind capable of being trained to achieve the goals set for the person, and a team of hundreds of people working around the clock to make sure he will have what he needs when he needs it – so that he will be able to make that climb. He will definitely need the encouragement of friends – and if not for that, the discouragement could certainly have a strong say in his lack of ability to achieve his goal!
Any steps not performed correctly – or with the permission of the country – could end up costing the climber a great penalty! Let alone considering if a medical support team be lacking- should something go wrong. Even when there aren’t others around us helping us – they may well be in “reserve”. Knowing this – we venture ahead – still imagining we are achieving everything ourselves.
For this reason, many become irritated at the plight of one lacking wealth. Such people (the poor) are condemned for a variety of things including not working hard enough, not being prepared to “do more”, not studying hard enough etc. etc. and so the list continues. It is their fault – people will say. It is their fault – because each of must surely become successful because of what we do – for ourselves! Yet in fact, their lack of success may be due to a variety of other reasons holding the person back at this point in time. The Torah warns us to never fall into the trap of feeling that everything we achieve is due to our own efforts. Whatever we achieve, is due not just to our efforts – but more importantly – to the support of those closest to us who assist us to become the people we are. Let us never forget that.
Ben Zoma teaches, “Who is wise? One who learns from everyone” (Avot 4:1). Today we have a treasure house of wisdom available to us at our finger tips. In days gone by, “everyone” could be just those who we were closest to in our own villages. Today, “everyone” can literally be everyone. We need just type their name into an Internet search box, and find out vast resources of information and advice from them! If we wish to gain from the wisdom that God has placed in the world, let us be prepared to hear words of wisdom – from whomever they come. Hidden in their words are the sparks of Creation that require refining. When the world was initially built – as the teachings of the kabbalah teach – the light entering into the vessels was too powerful, causing the vessels to break. The broken sparks spread everywhere – and it is our task to find them, placing them where they should be. When we look at people – we will find that each of us – no matter what type of person we may be – contains parts of these sparks. If we are to grow and develop – and meet with success, let us be in touch with those sparks, lighting up our own lives.
Arnold Schwarzenegger achieved his success in life through a particular direction he followed. Yet, when it came down to it, he himself acknowledges that “None of us can make it alone”. This video is extremely powerful, and should be listened to, internalised and put into practise. We must be cautious to come to attribute our success to ourselves. We must also be cautious to realise that when we see others struggling – that sometimes, it is not just because they have “no job” – but maybe because they need a better support team. When we become that team for them – they achieve their success, and we too, our own!