Tag Archives: Success

Defeat

A wise man once said sometimes you win, sometimes you LEARN

So my scars are not defeat, they represent my Experience

My tear stains are not defeat, they represent my Understanding

My mistakes are not defeat, they represent my Education

My humility is not defeat, it represents my Wisdom

J.M. Cortés

Copyright © 2013 J.M. Cortés 

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Let them burn

More concerning Half Measures and Inaction:

Hernando Cortes was not a man of half measures or inaction. At a particular crisis point in his expedition of Mexico, with nationals to conquer and a deployment from Spain en route to apprehend him, a brazen act was carried out.  Some argue that my family’s patriarch did not actually burn his ships but simply disabled them; others say he destroyed all but one. But whether he set them ablaze, limited their nautical ability, or destroyed all but one Hernando Cortes was not about half measures. Furthermore inaction would not work at that moment of decision. Arriving on the shores of Mexico, Cortes immediately went about conquering the nationals. Some fell by their deference to him and some fell by force. But when word of the imminent arrest reached Cortes, he prepared decisvely. A former superior of Cortes had authorized his capture and was portraying the expedition as an act of mutiny. Cortes knew that success would only come if he could conquer Mexico. So the ships had to burn.

It was not an act of desperation or insanity; there was no sign in the heavens driving him toward euphoric zeal. So what motivated him to do it then? Two very specific things; one was the innate characteristic of true leadership which is decisiveness. I believe this was important but I also believe it was secondary in that moment. The main reason had to have been his knowledge of history. Centuries before, his own country had been invaded by Muslims. Though the Spaniards outnumbered them 5 to 1, they were still defeated and their homeland seized. At the helm of the invading Muslims was a leader that determined to conquer Spain or die trying. His command upon arrival was to disembark and burn the ships they arrived on. If alive they would have a country of ships to pick from and if otherwise, dead men require no transportation.  

Cortes recognized this moment called for the same mindset. If arrested by the coming envoy, they would fail. If the nationals became aware that these ‘god-like’ warriors could be defeated they would fail. So calling upon the reserve of fortitude found within every leader, he removed any option that did not end as he would have it. In other words, he would be the author of his outcome. He would defeat the nationals or die trying. He would resist the envoy or die trying. Eventually he came face to face with those sent to arrest him and he conquered them. Less than 2 years after that, he had fully conquered the Aztec Empire. But before that happened, the ships had to burn.

Half Measures are equal to having ships to retreat with. Half measures carry a tone of uncertainty which leads to insecurity. A hand shaking with fear does not handle a sword effectively. Had Cortes used any language less than definitive or displayed any resolve less than certain, he never would have survived. Donald Rumsfeld recently spoke up about the importance of a direct response to the issues in Syria by stating “the essence of leadership is clarity”. As the world looked on, the US would have to speak clearly about Syria’s actions and thus a fitting response.

 “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle”

A cause worth living for naturally means it is worth dying for. Alexander the Great landed on the shores of Persia. With the expansion of his father’s kingdom in sight, there was no stopping place in his mind. Interestingly, he burned his ships alongside those shores as well.

I think there is something to this whole “burn the ships” thing.

Copyright © 2013 J.M. Cortés

Lesson learned…

“Me, I want what’s coming to me….”

“Oh? Well, what’s coming to you?”

“The world, chico, and everything in it.”

These notorious lines are repartee of the protagonist and his counterpart in a tale about the rise and fall of a drug cartel leader. While the banter assumes an influx of ill-gotten materialism, the intention and motive is the same – destructive ambition. This tale I’ve referenced is neither unique nor original; as far as humanity goes back there have been people with unbalanced appetite and unwavering drive to attain whatever they want.

When the foundation is wrong, it is to be expected the subsequent phases will be just as wrong. Typically how something is begun is how it will end. The end of the character quoted above found him lying in a pool of his own blood, victim of assassination. While this example is not only extreme and rooted in fiction, there are many with a tale of ruin simply because they were controlled by destructive ambition. There are no shortcuts to any place worth going and no quick routes for gaining that which holds true value. The enjoyment of having what is ill-gotten is short lived compared to that which is gained honorably.

A fresh awareness of this came to me as I arrived at the conclusion of a particular venture in my life. This event started 581 days ago and resulted from an emotionally charged decision. I excused the decision under the pretense of it providing a form of income (which is important) and pride (which can become one’s undoing). I launched out thinking all would be well and something good could come from it.

Needless to say, 581 days later I not only accepted the venture cost me more money than it made me I lost some other things along the way. Starting off I knew what would come from it and its limitations. But hoping for something better to evolve from it and influenced by pride I jumped into it feet first. However if I would have jumped in with my mind first I would have never entered at all.

But as things that are begun wrong can do, it came to an end in an unexpected way. The consolation in all of this is two-fold though. I’d probably have continued to waste my time on a situation that could never yield a return of discernible value. More importantly, I learned a valuable lesson about decision making during emotionally charged times…don’t do it…for when emotions run high, judgment runs low.

 

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

Perspective

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Raising the window shade to look again, I still could not see anything. First it was 15 minutes, then 30, and soon an hour had passed. There we sat waiting to begin our flight out of Washington and yet our plane had scarcely moved from the loading bridge. I could not recall a time where I had seen fog so dense, it was as if we were surrounded by billows of smoke. Finally the fog dissipated enough for the Captain to announce we would depart and I was hoping he could see more than I could. Taxiing along the runway then launching forward, we soon took flight. Climbing to 10,000 feet, then 20,000, we finally were cruising at nearly 40,000 feet. The view from that same window now presented a much different perspective; a clear blue sky and hardly any clouds could be seen.

This experience represents how perspective influences response to a situation. Nothing changed concerning the weather, but our perspective changed when we rose above it.  Many times perspective becomes obscured by difficulties, interactions with negative people, or having a pessimistic attitude. While we cannot prevent every difficulty, we can control how we respond to it. We cannot transform the negative outlook others  have but we do not have to be influenced by it. And of all these things, the one we have most power over is our own attitude. Our attitude is formed and shaped by our perspective.  “Two men look out through the same bars, one sees the mud and one the stars” (F. Langbridge)

Perspective and Difficulty

When we are confronted by difficulty, regardless of its degree, the mind immediately formulates a response. The situation may be different but the response is typically consistent with our nature.  As the density of the fog hindered visibility for flight, difficult times can hinder our vision. It’s hard to believe when everything is falling apart that a resolution is possible. Or at the least, it has an end.  The day before posting this article, I was flying in a small non-commercial aircraft. As we began our descent, the pilot told me we would encounter turbulence very soon. Descending into clouds that had been below us, we now flew in a pattern that kept us surrounded by them. Visibility was zero. The pilot responded to my surprise by stating the instrumentation is what we were now relying on. When flying in zero visibility, a pilot cannot follow feelings or perspective. Spatial disorientation might cause them to feel they are going one way when they might be going another.  When difficult times disorient us, our perspective can become our undoing. This is where the importance of positive (and higher) influences becomes most evident.

Perspective and Negative People

“Protect your spirit from contamination; limit your time with negative people.”  – Thelma Davis

Naysayers, whiners, and skeptics are everywhere. These people walk among us criticizing and complaining about everything. Some of them do not even view “the glass as half empty”; they have a readymade presentation about the insufficiencies of the glass itself. They are trained well in the art of minimizing potential and maximizing limitation. These people have rallied associates for their cause as well; an alliance based on their ability to offer fear and anxiety. They see the dark side of things; citing chapter and verse on how pitiful things are. They see the worst in people and the worst in every situation. Avoid their toxicity; they should not be permitted the opportunity to distort your perspective.

Perspective and Attitude

Remember “Tough times don’t last but tough people do”. Once I have reached the other side of a trial, I know it helps to reflect on the perspective I had during it. I try to think about how I felt and how I was thinking when it started, then the same when it was over. This helps me to work toward attaining a proper perspective when the next trial arises. Proper perspective of the past helps to have a proper perspective of the future. On the flip side, I am reminded of material I used to teach anger management that used an allegory of “life views and windows of time”. The material created a metaphor of people standing before “windows of the past, present, and future”.  Viewing life (and thus living it) from a window view of the past is not constructive. You cannot undo what has happened and regret will only create negative feelings for today. Living life from a window view of the future can create anxiety and stress. The material encouraged focus on living life from a window view of the present. We cannot change the past but the future is best prepared for by focusing on the present.

“It’s your attitude, not your aptitude that determines your altitude”.  If you’ve ever heard Zig Ziglar speak, you probably have heard him say this!

What kind of perspective do you have? Where has it taken you? Or by contrast, what has it taken from you?

Seek a higher perspective and once you have attained it, seek a higher one than that.

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Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

2013: The Scapegoat comes to an End…

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Photograph: Copyright © 2009 Mike Bade

“Victory has many fathers but defeat is an orphan” – Galeazzo Ciano

It was considered by all of them a time of new beginnings. Expectation and aspirations filled the air as if they were a soft, enticing fragrance. The weather made its transition from the rain-less  scorching days of summer to a tranquility offered by no other season than autumn. Situated far enough east of the Mediterranean Sea, the city escaped the residual humidity lingering from the end of the season. The nights were just shy of being cold and the daily temperatures would not overheat but offer comfortable warmth instead.

The citizens of the city gathered in the temple’s courtyard and all eyes were upon the High Priest. He made his way to the Upper Gate that was situated on the eastern side of the courtyard. There waiting for him was a bound goat bleating sounds of frustration. When the High Priest stood before the goat, he dropped his right hand down hard upon the head of the goat. Hand in place; he began to confess the shared failings and transgressions of the people over the goat. At this action, those assembled in the courtyard fell prostrate silently whispering their own confessions of failure.

At the conclusion of this the High Priest commanded the goat be lead out of the courtyard, out of the city and into the wilderness. This goat became known as the scapegoat; all of their failures as individuals and as a nation were now imparted upon it. It was banished to the wilderness and sometimes purposefully led to a cliff for it to wander off of.

What I have described is how the holiday of Yom Kippur was celebrated in antiquity.  This holiday occurs in the first month of the Hebrew calendar which corresponds to September. It was believed that God during the beginning of the month would inscribe the person’s fate for the upcoming year in a Book of Life. Then on the day of Yom Kippur, the outcome would be sealed.

Today is January 1 of 2013 and all have received a new beginning. The misinterpretation of what December 21 signified on the Mayan Calendar’s was confirmed nearly 2 weeks ago. We are beyond that as well as the rest of 2012’s misinterpretations. Was 2012 a year defined by success for you? Was it a year of defeat? Reflecting on the events of the year, we might recall tears shed in sadness and tears shed for joy. We might reflect upon good memories and bad memories. But regardless of what we remember the most of, the focus must now be upon 2013.

At the beginning of this commentary was a quote found in the diary of Benito Mussolini’s son in law who was a Foreign Minister of Italy. Things were changing in him and his view of his country’s role in World War 2. His statement sums up the feelings of many who pursue success (victory). Everyone is ready to stand up for the credit of what worked, what solved the problem, and what made the difference. Yet when things fall apart rarely does anyone want their name attached to it. We’ve seen it in every social dynamic from work to family situations to events involving friends or acquaintances. While there are many contributing factors to something being defined successful, most important is that which was is honestly a part of it. Credit should be given where credit is due and what did not work needs to be admitted to as well.

I recently read a quote of Will Smith that encapsulates what I am confronting in this commentary. He said: “If you’re absent during my struggle don’t expect to be present during my success”. A true friend, a true companion, a true love will be with you when you are down and when you are up. Life will take you down some hard roads and when the day of reckoning finally arrives look up and see who is standing with you. They are your support base, they are your real friends, and they are the ones who truly love you. And when failure comes to those you care about, do not abandon them but help them. Lose the judgmentalism, don’t focus on the disappointment, and forget about saying “I told you so”. Take them by the hand, lift them up and walk with them. Whichever side you find yourself on of this paradigm, beware of contemplating the use of a scapegoat.

Many spend their entire lives depending upon the scapegoat; something they can blame their failures on. To them it seems easier to rely on their scapegoat as their prepared response. They can ascribe their shortcomings to it then cast it out to a place where it will never be found. The scapegoat will be an option for you in 2013 but you must choose another way. When difficulty comes, when resistance confronts you, do not run nor reach for the scapegoat. Settle it in your mind now: you will encounter trouble and somewhere an obstructionist awaits you. There is also a possibility those standing with you now might not be by the end of 2013.

You must decide that you will rise with them or in spite of them.

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

 

An Indomitable Spirit

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Few things are more awe inspiring than someone’s refusal to accept defeat. You are witnessing greatness when you see someone persevere through adversity with absolute confidence they can achieve their goal. Perseverance through adversity is evidence of an indomitable spirit. I believe resolve is like a well spring deep within everyone but the ground must be broken up for it to spring forth. When someone wants to take short cuts and retreats from hardship, they are suppressing this well spring of resolve. Allow the rains of adversity to shower the grounds above this well spring. These rains will soften the ground and make it easier for the good to break through.

An Indomitable Spirit is revealed by the choices one makes. Giving up is a choice and persevering is a choice. These choices are the result of whatever is influencing us the most. Past failures, a poor or nonexistent support system, and deficient integrity can influence the wrong choices. Previous successes, a great support system, and internal strength can influence the right choices. Nevertheless, the right or wrong choice is a conscience decision that is up to the individual to make. Environment is a powerful influence but the choice is still up to the individual. Examples abound of people who overcame a negative environment and its influence to achieve success. Examples also abound of people who failed to achieve success though they had a positive environment to thrive in. The words of Henry Ford ring true: “Whether you think you can or think you cannot, you are right”.

The record setters, record breakers, and all who have made an imprint on history were individuals who made a choice. Their Indomitable Spirit pushed them beyond limitations and defeat. Edmund Hillary was the first to lead a group of mountaineers to the summit of Mount Everest. But his first attempt was not successful and even took the lives of some of those he lead. In spite of this defeat, the British Parliament moved forward with an event to celebrate his efforts. As he entered the building, a standing ovation commenced. However Edumnd Hillary appeared to only notice  a picture of Mount Everest set up in the auditorium. He walked directly up to it and while shaking his fist at the image of Mount Everest he declared: “You won this time. But you are as big as you are ever going to get. And I’m still growing.” History reveals he would not let that defeat be final and eventually he stood on the summit of Mount Everest.

A common occurrence takes place in marathon races stretching out over significant distances,. Once first place has been secured and the other leading contenders have crossed the line, it is normal for those still far behind to drop out. An attitude prevails that since, the primary victory slots have been attained continuing the race becomes optional. Throughout my martial arts training, I have heard more than one instructor say: “You are not in competition with those around you; you are in competition with yourself”.

Zoe Koplowitz has been called “The World’s Slowest Marathon Runner”. At 64, she has participated in over 20 marathon races. The quality most distinct about her participation is not her age but the fact she has battled multiple sclerosis for more than half her life. Each time she has crossed the finish line she has been a winner. It may have not been a first place winner but a winner nonetheless. Her completion time for a race has been as much as 31+ hours. Her response to this: “It doesn’t matter how long it takes me to finish, it’s that I finish and I finish from the heart”. An Indomitable Spirit forges through the false concept that only races won, count. The Indomitable Spirit knows that some races are won strictly by virtue of finishing them.

“He who gives up when he is behind is cowardly; he who gives up when he is ahead is foolish.” –William A Ward

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

If you want to see Success come before Work…

…then look in the dictionary because that’s the only place you will see that.

Success is, as someone said, when preparation connects with opportunity. To achieve success we must position ourselves for it. Success in any endeavor is rarely an accident but rather the result of intentional design. To a certain extent success is subjective; the standard we set for our definition of success is basically right. Inspiration is the driving factor behind how high or low we set our standard for success. Some are more inspired, more driven, and more aggressive than others. The inspiration that establishes the level of success sought after overlaps into another subject. Zeal can be tempered with wisdom but if a lethargic disposition is the norm, it is nearly terminal. Success will not be served to you, it is only self served.

Success to some is defined by accumulation, to others it is defined by accomplishment. Success is like beauty, it’s in the eye of the beholder. Even attaining success through means some might consider dishonorable is still success to the one who achieves what they want. There is always a cost associated with exchanging our ideals for what we want but that’s usually a lesson learned later rather than beforehand. I believe in the idea of aggressively pursuing goals. I believe in the idea of challenging others if they stand in between you and your goals. But if in the end you have everything you want but it was attained at the expense of others or your own ideals, what do you really have?

Joe Paterno was the head coach at Penn State for many years once, he was quoted as saying “Success without honor is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy your hunger, but it won’t taste good.”. Go after your goals, work hard to achieve them. But do it right.

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés