I love stories where the good guy or girl wins. One of my all-time-favorite stories is that of a young shepherd, David, and the giant, Goliath. In his teens, the young man by the name of David goes against a renowned soldier (Goliath) who was terrorizing the Israelites day and night and David defeats him with a sling and a stone. My favorite part of the story is when David cuts off the giant’s head with the same sword that the enemy thought would kill David. Isn’t that an amazing story?
One of my favorite modern day stories is that of Superman. I love how good triumphs over evil. I love that Superman has a human side to him, he’s just a geek who means well and has superpowers for when a need arises. I generally celebrate when good prevails over evil. As the years go by, I’ve noticed something about such stories though; progress seems to attract opposition. Good gets the attention of evil. Villains love to challenge the superheroes. Trouble seems to look for those who are doing something significant with their lives.
As the Arab proverb goes, “The dogs bark every time they see a caravan moving ahead. ”
With this new perspective on life, I now understand that victory comes at the cost of great opposition and pain. Yes we clap at the end of a movie when the good guy wins, but very few people consider what that victory costs the hero. We quickly overlook the effort and insurmountable courage it takes to step in the ring with your giant.
Life comes with challenges. No matter how wonderful our lives may be, we are not exempt from hardship and pain. No matter how well put together we appear to be, like David, at some point we must all face our giants. Suffering will come, this we cannot run away from, but it’s how we handle difficulty that determines our character. If we are going to be exceptional beings, we are going to be tested. Be it at work, at home, or in our relationships; be it financial, health-wise or emotional, there is going to be an area of our lives that challenges us most so that we learn how to maximize our pain.
I’ve noticed something about my own life, every time I’m due to a great promotion, comes a great test. A few years ago, I faced a challenge at work. I was undermined, underestimated and ridiculed and it was said that my progress was due to my looks, in a nutshell, my character was questioned. It was a daunting period of my life. Colleagues completely overlook my work ethic, my drive and efforts but were quick to cling to ideas that I was able to get ahead because I’m attractive. I felt hurt, disappointed and disrespected by their accusations. I soon discovered that even people I thought I could trust were in on the rumor. I was devastated.
Opposition doesn’t care about logic, opposition comes to test our resilience (staying power). So the question beckons, do you have what it takes to stay afloat when the storms of life rage?
After a few weeks of working in an unbelievably toxic environment (I was starting to consider looking for employment elsewhere), something completely random happened. I was in an elevator when my then-CEO walked in. We hardly knew each other, but we had attended many meetings together, so he knew of my work and I (at least) knew his name. He politely greeted me and I smiled, “Good morning” while nervously staying out of his way. He made small talk and I smiled faintly. I assume that he had heard about the rumors and allegations because after that he turned to me and said, “Cele, there are few young women like you, you have great potential in this industry and in this company. Keep doing good work and let the rest go.”
That was the longest two minutes of my life in that elevator. I was taken aback, all I could do was mumble, “Thank you” as the elevator door opened for me.
It seemed as though that moment was perfectly planned by God. It was just something I needed to hear from someone whose opinion I respected. That was the last conversation I ever had with my CEO and when he left the organization a few months later, I couldn’t help but feel grateful for the words he deposited into my life. Every once in a while when life (especially work) knocks me off my feet, I still use his words as anchor to hold on to.
We’ve got to learn to toughen up when life pushes us to the corner. We’ve got to develop a capacity to recover quickly from the punches life swings at us. When negativity raises its ugly head, we’ve got to be able to resist it and remember who we are.
After that elevator moment, I realized that it was time for me to get in the ring with my giant and no one could win the fight for me but me. So I adjusted my attitude and focused on my work and set myself free from what others were saying about me. I learnt to maintain my peace with the colleagues who were rubbishing my name and I found fulfillment in knowing I was doing the best I could. That period really tested my patience and my ability to keep winning in the presence of people who meant to harm me. A few months later, opportunities I could never have imagined started opening up for me. And looking back now, I realized that I needed that pain to teach me how to stand on my own, I needed the opposition to teach me focus, I needed the betrayal to teach me humility. Most importantly, I needed to learn that progress comes with opposition.
We admire superheroes, we clap for the good guys, we cheer the champion on, but let us not forget that victory comes at a cost. Excellence is not cheap. Winning requires tenacity. Progress demands a down payment. The harder you work, the more opposition you will face. The more strides you make, the more people will resent you. Your crown is yours but you will be challenged for it, chin up so your crown doesn’t fall from your head.