There were two expert trombone players. Both found seats in major European orchestras. However, one boasted that her placement was due to her arduous years of practice and self-sacrifice. The other gave over that her professional good luck was based on the kindness of Hashem. Both were, by the same token, accomplished musicians. Yet, only one was correct in her assessment of the source of her worldly success.
While most of us are not music makers and have not, honestly, labored in ways anywhere akin to those as rigorous as the ways of creative folks attempting to carve our careers, most of us, nonetheless, remain guilty of possessing a mindset similar to that of the musician who took credit for her rise to glory. That is, many of us specially trained people highlight our tenacity, emphasize our drive to develop our innate talents, and make much about our ken for sniffing out connections as the basis for any gained fame or fortune. We couldn’t be more mistaken.
Persistence is a character trait and as such, like the rest of our given qualities, comes from beyond us, from our Creator. If we do extremely well at the types of interpersonal communications that enable us to build networks, that excellence, likewise, is a gift.
In balance, personal development of any sort requires our efforts. Yet, that hard work is a necessary, not a sufficient, condition for our undertakings. Think on why two evenly skilled athletes have different quantitative records. Consider that two equally personable men have different experiences of marriage. Ponder how it can be that two similarly trained executives pass through different totalities, or degrees of failure, over the course of their lifetimes’ business activities.
The smarties in our grade school classrooms, for instance, were given their aptitudes; they did not wake up one day and interrupt their childhoods with realizations that they needed to become nerds, atypical familial pressures notwithstanding. The beautiful people in our lives might have cleverly used cosmetics, exercise, or other mechanisms to enhance their natural endowments, but they, in the same way, did not self-determine their comeliness. Those persons, whom we are blessed to have among us, who give generously of their wisdom, too, did not self-elect to be of a nature that tends more readily toward sagacity than foolhardiness.
In all cases, whereas we individuals have to recognize and to exert ourselves with what we received, BH, that we received anything at all has always been and will always continue to be out of our hands. As such, what separates arrogant “winners” from faith-based champions is that the former credit themselves for originating their talents and for fashioning the circumstances in which those talents can be cultivated, and the latter, i.e. folks with emunah, know, viscerally, that The Almighty is the source, not only for gifts and skills, but also for each and every circumstance that occurs that allows those gifts and skills to be developed.
It’s of no small wonder that we note as tiresome those reports, to which we are subjected, from friends or other loved ones, as expressed in personal sharings, or from strangers, as expressed in the media, about how they brought about financial achievement, about how they brought about literary triumph, or how they won their desired mate, because of their efforts. The pintele Yid in each of us remains capable of separating truth from deception, no matter what our eyes and ears insist on as being real. That facet of our souls, too, can and often does overcome the “logic” proffered by our brains. Deep down, all of us grasp that reports of self-fueled copiously achieved ends are balderdash except when nuanced by a point of view of gratitude toward The Boss.
In other words, the next time that any of us is given a promotion, receives an award, secures an important relationship, it would behoove us not to pound our chests in conquest, but to offer up prayers of thanks. There is no quality of our lives that has not been ordained from above. At the same time as we must complete the footwork that potentially provides the contexts for small and large miracles, alike, we need to remember and to espouse that it is not us who establishes life’s wonders, but it is G-d.