(An excerpt from the bestselling series How to Completely Change Your Life in 30 Seconds, based on talks by Earl Nightingale)
Opportunities and problems come in all sizes, from the very small to the very large. There’s no such thing as an opportunity without problems or problems without opportunities; they’re two sides of the same coin. But it’s how we react to them that determines what sort of people we are and how serene or frustrated, successful or unsuccessful we ultimately become.
Look at it this way: The better prepared, the more skilled and experienced we become, the larger the opportunity we can handle because we’ve learned to handle the problems that go with it. But at the same time, you can’t handle—you might not even recognize—a large opportunity if you permit yourself to be bothered by small problems. If a person is to mature—reach his full stature as a human being—he must learn to sail over the thousands of small, unimportant problems and irritations that beset all of us. If he permits himself to become involved with the numerous small, unimportant vexations, petty arguments, real or imagined personal slights, the interminable minutia of life, he’ll spend all the years of his life in the shallows.
As we’ve said before, a person is only as large as the things he lets bother him; he’s only as big as the things he lets interest him.
In discussing this not long ago, I got to thinking that people are like sailing craft, and you can compare life itself to an ocean. Now, think of the people you know—and think of yourself—as vessels. The smallest would be a little skiff that bounces and bobs even in calm weather over the smallest waves. It isn’t safe to go to sea in a boat that small; it will be swamped by the first large wave that comes along.
From the smallest vessel, let’s go now to the largest ocean liner. It doesn’t even feel the small waves in the harbor. Not until it reaches the great swells of the open sea does it begin to compensate for roll and pitch. And even the worst storms find it equal to the task. It might arrive in port a day or two late, but it will get there safely, with its passengers and cargo.
What kind of vessel are you? Are you the big liner that sails serene and confident far out into the deep, open sea—that pays no attention to the small, or even medium-sized, waves that break and disintegrate against its tall sides? Or are you the small rowboat that bobs and rocks in the slightest breeze?
As James Allen so beautifully put it, “The strong, calm person is always loved and revered. He is like a shade-giving tree in a thirsty land, or a sheltering rock in a storm. Who does not love a tranquil heart, a sweet-tempered, balanced life? It does not matter whether it rains or shines, or what changes come to those possessing these blessings, for they are always sweet, serene and calm. That exquisite poise of character which we call serenity is the last lesson of culture; it is the flowering of life, the fruitage of the soul.”
Ships and people come in all sizes. We stop to watch and admire the great ships, while the small craft in the harbor attract only a passing glance. What kind of craft are you?
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