From Their Biography

What do all successful CEOs, athletes, authors, scientists, inventors, or anybody who made it have in common? What do Steve jobs, Michael Jordan, Dante Aleghieri, Louis Pasteur, Leonardo Da Vinci have in common? We often forget that they were not born famous, wealthy, and successful. We forget they were once unknown and unimportant. We tend to forget about their hard work, the setbacks they encountered, and the determination they showed before they got to stand on the pinnacle of the world’s cathedral. It can help us if we remember that they failed just as you and I have and will. They knew setbacks, dark nights, the bottom, and bitterness. The difference is whenever they fell, they dust themselves off and try again. They learned from their failure and moved on to the next challenge.

What makes them stand out? Why are their names on everyone’s lips today? The answer lies in their ability to remain focus on the goal. FOCUS is what they share in common. It is ingrained in their personality and honed in their DNA. They persevered despite thick and thin. And at the end, they win the prize. Perhaps, their advice can help us on our own journey (whatever that journey is).

Take Jerry Seinfeld for instance. The first time he went on stage, he was booed, ridiculed, and humiliated. What did he do? He went back to that same theater next time with renewed confidence and better prepared. He stayed at it. He kept the fight, and he won the war. It is inevitable that we lose some battles. But it is contingent on us to win the war. We learn from the losses and use them to win the war. Life is a battleship; those who survive are heroes. As someone once said, “the rule of life is tough, but once you reach the top, the view is pretty amazing”. So what does Seinfeld learn from his failure? “Keep your head up in failure and your head down in success.” Courage and focus make him one of the most beloved comedians on television. Failure then is part of the game. As Janet Fitch eloquently says it: “The phoenix must burn to emerge.”

Another inspiring figure is the British author J.K. Rowling, whose brilliant writings we have grown admiring through the Harry Potter movies. She knows what it means to give herself to the one thing that matters. Once she discovered the one, it grabs her whole being. Once she found the pearl, she sublimates all her energy to it. This is how she expressed her attitude at a commencement speech at Harvard university: ”… I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged.”

Know this: those who don’t fail are those who don’t try. Failure can be the wings upon which you reach success. Don’t be afraid to ride on it. Many seem to thrive on it. It motivates them to keep on improving. Michael Jordan has an outstanding take on failure. The best basketball player in NBA history, the legend, the champion has lost many games, missed many shots, but he used them to win five championships and a handful of MVPs. As he puts it: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” He failed and that motivates him to improve.

churchill2-300x224What to say of the most successful person in human history, Jesus Christ, the son of Mary and Joseph? He asked the father to take away the cup from him. 3 times he fell on his way to Calvary; he endured 480 strokes, nailed to a cross, beaten beyond recognition, and humiliated to death. He persevered to the very last breath. The result is astonishing and magnificent, astonishingly magnificent, and magnificently astonishing; “I have made all things new”; the whole human race is redeemed. Creation is restored. Greatest success than this there is none. By the power of Christ crucified, we can do all things. No mountains are too steep for us. so in our efforts to be a a more virtuous person, a holier Christian, a better teacher, parent, child etc. We will know setbacks and many dark moments, but we can use them for our benefits. Focus. “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Heb. 12:2). Pray for the grace to stay focus. There will be noise around you; there will be distractions; there will be threats. Just keep your eyes on the goal. Focus on the one thing you know you can do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire.

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THE VIEW

Everyone operates from a worldview, knowingly or unknowingly. Unless our life story is told according to a framework, it does not appeal to anyone. Alasdair McIntyre argues in his book After Virtue that in order to “understand conversations you overhear, you have to put them into a framework” (ch. 15) to make sense of them. Just as it is important to travel back and enter the ancient world if we are to make sense of what they did i.e. we must espouse their worldview to grasp why they did what they did, so too in order to understand why someone acts the way he acts today, we must understand how he views life in general. Tell me your worldview, and I will tell you everything about you.

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Our worldview determines what we stand for. It is our worldview that allows us to commit to a cause; it allows us to judge something as right or wrong. It stimulates the lawyer to fight for justice (at least it should be that), politicians to run for office, a person to give up a luxurious life to be completely committed to God as priests, or nuns. It was a worldview that motivates Georges Washington to fight to free the new land from the yoke of the British. It was from a worldview that the founding fathers wrote the constitution. It spurred Abraham Lincoln to reiterate at the Gettysburg address the fundamental truth that “all men are created equal”. A worldview was the leitmotif behind the civil right movement of the ‘60s. What’s a worldview? It is a comprehensive system that provides an answer to the big questions of life. It is system in which we come to visualize life.

A worldview is everything. If we get it right, we get everything else right. If wrong, we choose the recipe for unforeseen disasters. It is from a worldview that our ethical, political, epistemological, religious, social, and economical views emerge. It determines what kind of law we establish, and the kind of society we envision. It is a worldview that gives us the abortion law, the Affordable Care Act, and the unending debates in congress between Democrats and Republicans. It determines what we become— A society based on truths and morals, or a society where everyone acts based on desires. It is from a worldview that we determine the paths we take in life.

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There are many competing worldviews. It’s always been that way. They all arise from the noticing something wrong with the world, and the effort of trying to fix it. They come from a search for improvement. For Plato, if we order our life according to reason, we will form the most stable society where each man gets involved only in what leads to excellence (the republic book IV, V). For Kant, “if we act only according to that maxim whereby we can at the same time will that it should become a universal law”, then everything will find its equilibrium (Critique of Pure Reason). For Freud, if we can solve the inner conflict between desires and conscience, then the world would be a better place. For the people of today, well do they have a common view? For them, nothing is absolute. I determine my own truth.

platoWhat none of these worldviews takes into account is the fundamental truth that the world was perfect until we came into it. So the problem lies in us. We were made to be in relationship with our creator. Life will always be off balance, and no solution will be found until we accept that without God in our life, we cannot espouse a proper worldview. We cannot forge a sound worldview because we are by nature corrupt. We need help, divine help. To fix the problem, we must fix our broken selves.

The worldview that saves, the one where God expresses his worldview is found in the Bible. Only the gospel among the competing worldviews really captures man’s nature. Blaise Pascal puts it best: “man is a nothing in relation to infinity, all in relation to nothing, a central point between nothing and all and infinitely far from understanding either”. Only the Bible is honest about man’s condition: a redeemed sinner, but not yet saved. Only the Bible is explicit through and through about man’s ultimate end and what he needs to do to reach it. Unlike any other worldview, only the Biblical worldview does not demonize some parts of creation while idolize another. The Greeks worship discipline of the soul while denigrating the body. The Enlightenment thinkers rejected all rationality to adhere to scientific proofs. The modern thinkers reject all for their own feelings. Only the Bible gives a workable solution— man’s cooperation with God, conversion and grace.

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When we start to operate from the Biblical worldview, everything changes. When the gospel is the overarching principle guiding businesspeople, accumulating power and wealth is not the ultimate reason they do business. Business becomes a way to forge a decent life for one’s family and to build a better community. All profits from a life shaped by a worldview drawn from the gospel. In journalism, reporting no longer takes sides. Stories do not caricature a victor and a villain. Objectivism runs through the heart of the reports. All petty agendas are set aside because the gospel worldview allows one to be open-minded and even-handed in writing and reporting. Under the gospel worldview, higher education is not training for work; it is about forming men to grow in self-discipline, virtue, and excellence. It prepares men to live flourishing lives.incarnation

Society would change for the best if the gospel were the lens through which we see our daily activities. From a Biblical worldview, everyone becomes coworkers working in the vineyard of God. Espousing a biblical worldview through and through is no easy matter. Many will disown you at first; if you will have to be ready to have new friends because your old friends will not be on par with you. Many will find you bizarre, but excellence requires sacrifice. To reach greatness, great decision is expected. Don’t be afraid!

The Most Important Thing

In a wide-reaching survey, 179 people were asked what is [the] most important thing in life? Their answers ranged from love, health, friendship, happiness, peace, helping others, freedom, women, family, money, I don’t know, respect, the environment, oxygen etc. It is indubitable that all these things are important because they contribute tremendously to our well-being. But something is lacking in this answer for it is impossible for any created good to constitute man’s happiness (Summa Theologiae II, Q 1, art 8), according to Aquinas. The most important thing in life must include something that remains when all is taken away. It must be something sustainable. The most important thing in life must be sufficient unto itself and be beneficial to us. It must provide safety and confidence in the midst of the storms of life. Whatever it is, I believe it must be something that keeps us going against all odds. But none of the answers seems to have those rudimentary elements. So are the aforementioned elements the most important thing in life?

To be fair to the responders however, there was an answer that I found striking. Someone said the most important thing in life is to find our purpose and pursue it. Yes purpose. We are purpose-driven people. We thrive best when we know what we want out of life. We are each created with a purpose and there is no greater sweetness to life than finding that purpose. Without hesitation, purpose is one of the most important things in life. Thus, it is fitting to want to find that purpose and pursue it as if there is no tomorrow. Life truly begins when we find that purpose. Finding our purpose makes us capable of living life with passion; it gives us the desire to wake up even when we are exhausted. It creates that burning drive in our deepest self to keep going even when going is almost impossible. It gives us our raison d’etre. My goal, your goal, your children’s goal, your friends and coworkers’ goal must be to find that purpose and follow it. Without a doubt, a purpose-driven life is a gift with which we need to grace our life, but is it the most important thing in life remains a puzzle yet to be solved?

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If we believe that God exists and has power over life, death, and our destiny, if God knows every single hair in our head, and knows our future before we were in the womb, he has to be the most important thing in life. The most important thing in life has got to be holiness. Since he is the most important, we want to be like him. “Be holy for I am holy” (Leviticus 20:26). Holiness means to be intellectually, spiritually, physically, and emotionally set apart for the pursuit of excellence. Unless we actively pursue such a life, life has not really begun. Once we put on that attitude, a new vision of life is created. Family, friends, money, power… are seen for what they are. Even if they are taken away, we will still have something, should I say someone, to rely on. No matter what happens, life remains meaningful. We are able to differentiate lie from truth. No existential neurosis is possible for our eyes are fixed on the proper goal and so we can scale any wall and go through any barrier. Without God as the picture, when we come to see these things for what they are and realize that we cannot cling to them, it may be too late to reach the substantial reality.

Holiness as the most important in life bails us out of this spinning torpedo. It makes us stand out. adoration With holiness, we can endure all things because we are not rooted in the ephemeral. It allows us to see this present life as the wing that carries us to what is eternal. Our inspiration comes from the one who tells that everything works for good for those who believe. If we understand God as the most important thing in life, and choose holiness for his sake, no mountains will ever be too steep to climb. He will always be there to transform the impossible to possible. He will always be a lodestar guiding us during the dark night of the soul. We will know no abandonment because it is against his nature to do so. So no crisis will be insurmountable. Living this is the most important thing in life.

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When you finally understand that holiness is the most important thing in life and embrace it with your whole essence, then you will understand that there is more to life than this. It is a waste to be caught in this corner of yours without embracing this monumental dream that God has in store for you. Embrace holiness, then you will feel like a child feels whether earthquakes, or wars are coming. You will know what it means to experience a genuine laughter. You will know what it means to feel God’s presence guiding you as if his very hands were pointing you on and his voice was whispering in your ears. You will know why some look at the sunset or stand before a painting board and weep. There is more. You are more. Choose more.