Excellence Is Your Destiny

Community Economics Health and Wholeness Personal Development What Your Father Should Have Taught You

“Whatever your hand finds to do; do it with all your might.” My Dad always told me to do my best, not for the sake of others, or because they paid me what I was worth, but because only by doing my best could I become the person God intended me to be. Excellence, if I worked hard, was my destiny.

this is the latest installment of What Your Father Should Have Taught You.

Many people, who don’t understand Wisdom Literature see Ecclesiastes as a depressing book (Ecclesiastes is a book of Wisdom in the Bible attributed to Solomon). Everything is the same, the universe moves in a circle, and anything that we do has been done before but dwelling on these points we completely miss the point. Everyone works, everyone lives, and everyone dies. Therefore, since life is fleeting, it is imperative that whatever we do we do our best and put our whole heart into it. Because this is OUR chance to shine and we may well not get another one. Please note, that none of this promised riches or “success.” Doing our best is a necessary tool for making ourselves better. I later discovered that it had the added advantage of helping one career.

“Whatever your hand finds to do; do it with all your might.” Ecclesiastes 9:10

My Dad’s life was in a different time. As a young teen he rode his horse into town, followed by his dog, and he told of the Dairy Wagon coming around carrying cheese and how, when you bought some, they would just carve it off the block. He didn’t have much money but the guy liked him and sometimes gave him some cheese. My Dad was farmed out as a boy. The family had too many kids and not enough money so, during harvest and planting, he lived in the neighbors barn and worked on the neighbors farm for room and board. He slept in the barn with his horse and his dog in the straw. He often said that was better sleeping and warmer than these beds and that my dog, who for a while lived in the shed in a large dog house filled with straw, that he was plenty warm. When he saw I was skeptical he had me crawl on in and I was amazed at how warm it was compared to outside.

As my regular readers know my Dad started with his company digging ditches for ten cents an hour. I think of that when I hear people say “I am worth more than minimum wage. I’m only going to give them minimum wage effort since that is what they pay for.” My Dad once heard me say something similar and sat me down “for a talk.”

“Is that all your worth? Minimum wage?”

“No, I can do more.”

“How do you expect anyone to know that if you don’t do it? All they will see is someone who barely does enough to get by. Is that how you want to be known? Someone who does the bare minimum or as someone who does their best? You always need to do your absolute best because you never know who is watching. I started digging ditches for next to nothing but the owner of the company saw how hard I worked and now I am a manager. We live quite comfortably and you have a lot of things that you would have if I only gave them 10 cents an hour worth of effort.”

At my first job, I found out he was right. I stopped working and sat down when I wasn’t on break thinking “Oh, a couple of minutes won’t matter.” Just then the boss walked around the corner. Of course, I said that I “had just sat down,” and of course, he didn’t believe me because that is what any lazy slug would say when they got caught lazing. My hard work up to that point was ruined by a couple of seconds of being slack. Learning that he was correct in that so early was a benefit. As a soldier I was made soldier and sergeant of the year so many times in so many units I can’t honestly say how many. I know I was such at least once in every unit I served in but I didn’t get it every year so I don’t know. My Dad taught me to not “rest on my laurels” but to get back in there and continue to do my best at all things. To do my best with all my might. As he said, you never know who is watching, and only by doing your best can you fulfill your potential and actually grow. Further, just getting by can become a habit.

I must admit, that in my teens and twenties, I did not always see the Wisdom of my father’s teachings. I often thought he was behind the times and while he had many experiences and was wise it was “old” knowledge and didn’t apply today. It was only when I got older and realized that these proverbs still proved true over and over and that, because they were developed from observing humans, and because we evolve so slowly, that even though the world changes rapidly the reactions of humans and the relationships they have to maintain still reflect who they are and how they think.

My Dad liked the Wisdom literature of the Bible and other knowledge drawn from nature. He spent a lot of time in those books (which include Ecclesiastes, much of the Psalms, and the Proverbs,) he also taught me a lot about life as we worked in the garden or took care of the rabbit hutches. Whatever we did or whatever happened it seemed that he had the wisdom to share.

Most people don’t know that there are two types of religious learning in the Bible. Because of the Christian emphasis on what they call “salvation history” preachers tend to concentrate on prophecy and revelation and some don’t seem to even understand the Wisdom tradition. Wisdom Literature, on the other hand, does not come from revelation but from observation. It can loosely be described as the science of the Bible. Wisdom literature exists in every culture of the world and is passed down by sages and wisdom keepers who have studied life and nature. The Bible passages produced by the sages pass down knowledge obtained from observation of nature, relationships, and human interaction. Perhaps this is why Wisdom sayings are almost verbatim saying the same no matter what culture they are from. You see whatever culture is recording its wisdom that knowledge was gathered by watching people and nature and wherever you are in the world people and nature act very much the same. The organism of the human being developed over a long period and it does not biologically change much in such a brief period as a few thousand years. People and nature are largely the same and not only our emotions but our thoughts are the result of biological processes. Therefore the wisdom teaching from thousands of years ago can still valid and is largely the same no matter if it is the Proverbs of the Bible or the Wisdom stories of Aesops Fables, or the Southern African-American tales Brer Rabbit and Brer Bear. Many who have studied Wisdom Literature have pointed out that Jesus used the teaching methods of proverbs and parables (stories with a message.) As his primary teaching method and he has been called one of the greatest Wisdom teachers of the Bible ranking above even Solomon.

The Bible is clear, though, although everyone can get Wisdom it can be elusive and it requires that you pay attention to teaching, to life, and yourself. Those who honestly seek Wisdom get wisdom but those who seek shortcuts get disaster.

Myself, my oldest brother, my middle son all look and act so much alike that our wives have confused our pictures when they look at pictures of us at the same ages. I remember my son’s wife saying, “Why don’t I have that picture of you?” – “Because that’s my Dad.” Similarly, I looked identical to my older brother. I would often say to him, “You are what I’m going to look like in twenty years.” – “I’m not twenty years older than you!” – “No but I don’t do drugs or drink as you do either.” After which I would usually have to duck a half-hearted blow from Fritz. There were differences. We were all very bright, we liked a structured life. I and my son liked aspects of the military and my brother liked jail. He had broke his neck and lost the fingers of his right hand as a teenager so he couldn’t join the military. He was brilliant when it came to moving earth and construction equipment and he made a lot of money doing that. Money that was invariably taken by his bad habits and his ex-wives (of which he had five or more.) But he was always using his intelligence to find that “one” scheme that would make him rich. Instead of applying himself to one thing with all of his might, he was always looking for something else which would give him an “edge.”

Meanwhile, I followed my Dad’s advice of applying myself with all my might in whatever I did, and as such I was made the Acting Special Agent in Charge of a Counterintelligence office for parts of a 3 state area, a Captain’s position, I later found out that I did the work, as a sergeant, but they had listed a Captain at the military intelligence detachment (who had never even laid eyes on our office,) as the commander because I as a Sergeant, could not be officially in charge. They did, however, trust me to do the work and supervise the training, liaison, and investigation that Captain York had done before I was assigned. While I never could have done this in the cavalry as a CI agent we didn’t wear uniforms we wore suits and so no one outside our command structure ever knew what my rank was.

The difference in our lives was not in our intelligence, our creativity, or in our abilities but in how we responded to work and adversity. Unfortunately, although we were so much the same, we were different enough that I presided at my brother’s funeral many years ago. He was the first of my siblings to die, although he was not the oldest. He had a rough life there, but for the grace of God, (and my acceptance of Wisdom rather than spending a life fighting it as he did,) my path could have been the same.

I need to take a moment to speak about the scam we call “minimum wage.” Because I worked hard I regularly got raises at Mcdonald’s. I would get to where I was making over a dollar more than starting people. Then the government would raise the minimum wage “to help me.” And suddenly, I was only making 25 or 50 cents more than a starting wage. In addition, because the money has to come from somewhere, every time the minimum wage rose they cut our benefits and raised the prices of basic goods. Everything cost more and I couldn’t get over the realization that these people, who had never worked a minimum wage job, were destroying my hard work and all that I had done in the name of “helping me.” And most people don’t notice how they slide a little bit back every time the minimum wage is raised.

If I had not done whatever I found to do with all my might, had I spent my life constantly chasing after wind and ideas, but never applying the consistent effort to make them real, I never would have had the opportunities that I had. Although I did fall for a couple of years a couple of times, each time I recovered and straightened myself out and I have had a diverse range of experiences that I would not have had if I had not had the ones before. Everything builds on everything else and the one thing that rich people have in common is they spent long hours doing hard work at the beginning. It is the same in every field to get success and to reach your goals you must apply yourself consistently with all your might.

“Whatever your hand finds to do; do it with all your might.” Ecclesiastes 9:10

1 thought on “Excellence Is Your Destiny

  1. In modern society we have lost so much of what made our society great all of that “old” Wisdom still applies to today. I watch my peers grow up with none of that. its infuriating they are like helpless babies in the world everything handed to them on a silver platter they know nothing of honor or chivilary concepts many belive dead but are part of my being. these things help me lead the best life possible. but i watch as they commit adultry and debachary its vile these lessons you write of give hope that others might read this and take it to heart so we may see honor and hard work and the great Wisdom of America return once again

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