What Matters Most: The Power of Living Your Values

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9780684872575: What Matters Most: The Power of Living Your Values

Book by Hyrum W Smith

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Chapter 1

Heroes: People Who Know Who They Are

There is no chance, no fate, no destiny that can circumvent, or hinder, or control a firm resolve of a determined soul.

-- Ella Wheeler Wilcox

It has been said that we live in an age when there are no heroes. I strongly disagree. While teaching and speaking with people about how to find and live by their deeply held values, I have heard about many heroes who have been role models and sources of inspiration for people both famous and obscure.

If I were to ask you to make a list of the heroes in your life, you would probably come up with several people you admire who have had an impact on your personal or professional life. There have been many such heroes for me, individuals for whom I have immense love and respect, who have brought out the best in me, and whose lives or characteristics have inspired me to find out who I really am.

Winston Churchill and England's Darkest Hour

Perhaps my reasons for talking about heroes can best be illustrated by referring to one of my own sources of inspiration, Winston Churchill. He has been one of my heroes since high school when another hero, a high school teacher (more about him later), first awakened my interest in history and I became aware of Churchill's vital role in the outcome of World War II. In recent years I have been taken aback to learn that many of those who have grown up since World War II know so little about him. He appears to be just a name if he shows up on their radar scopes at all, whereas I believe Winston Churchill's actions were pivotal in one of the great and most dramatic turning points of civilization.

We must start with the fact that the future did not look at all promising for England's survival in May 1940 when Churchill became its prime minister. A little more than twenty years had passed since Britain and her allies had defeated Germany in what was widely considered "the war to end all wars." But now the reborn military might of Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany was overrunning Holland and Belgium and pushing into France in what seemed to be a crushing replay of the opening of the earlier war. This time the German blitzkrieg appeared to be unstoppable.

For most of the previous five years Hitler had thumbed his nose at the world community, rearming his nation and reoccupying former German territory given to France after World War I. He had engineered the German annexation of Austria in a bloodless coup. In the so-called Munich accords in the fall of 1938, Hitler had used deceit to persuade England's Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and France's Premier Edouard Daladier to give in to his demands to occupy and "protect" the German-speaking portions of Czechoslovakia. That done, Hitler promptly gobbled up the rest of the country less than six months later. Only late in this period had the British begun to rearm themselves, and they were seriously outnumbered in terms of men in uniform and modern military equipment. They could only hope that France's strong army would be able to deter further German moves.

In September 1939, Hitler's armies entered Poland, in direct defiance of the promises he had made at Munich. The British and French, having promised to aid Poland if it was attacked, reluctantly declared war on Germany. It was a case of too little, too late because within weeks Hitler subdued and occupied Poland.

In May 1940, after a winter in which the armies of Germany and France faced each other across the fortifications of France's supposedly impregnable Maginot Line, Hitler appeared to be unstoppable again. Wheeling through the Low Countries, the German tanks simply outflanked the French border fortresses, and they appeared capable of quickly reaching Paris.

The proclamation of "peace for our time" with which Chamberlain had originally hailed the Munich agreement with Hitler had turned out to be anything but. On May 9 the now discredited Chamberlain resigned, recommending to King George VI that Winston Churchill be named his successor.

Although Churchill was a member of Chamberlain's Conservative Party, he had been one of the leading critics of Chamberlain and of the party's handling of the entire German situation. Following Munich, Churchill had declared that the prime minister's "peace for our time" was "an unmitigated disaster." A weary Chamberlain was now saying in effect, "I've failed. You see if you can do any better." On May 10, Winston Churchill was summoned to Buckingham Palace. In his words: "Presently a message arrived summoning me to the Palace at six o'clock....I was taken immediately to the King. His Majesty received me most graciously and bade me sit down. He looked at me searchingly and quizzically for some moments, and then said: '...I want to ask you to form a Government.' I said I would certainly do so."

Following his appointment, Churchill met with political and military leaders, advisers, and others, and they put together a coalition government. This was happening while the roar and clash of battle continued on the Continent.

Someone in Winston Churchill's position at that time might have felt some misgivings about the menace his nation faced. He might have felt the oppressive burden of leadership during those perilous times and perhaps some apprehension about his ability to change events. Not so, as revealed in his memoirs:

As I went to bed at about 3 A.M., I was conscious of a profound sense of relief. At last I had the authority to give directions over the whole scene. I felt as if I were walking with Destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial....My warnings over the last six years had been so numerous, so detailed, and were now so terribly vindicated, that no one could gainsay me. I could not be reproached either for making the war or with want of preparation for it. I thought I knew a good deal about it all, and I was sure I should not fail. Therefore, although impatient for the morning, I slept soundly and had no need for cheering dreams. Facts are better than dreams.

Reading these words, I feel a great surge of emotion. Churchill was a man who was in the right place at the right time, and as a result he made a powerful difference for the entire world -- a difference that certainly puts him on anyone's list as one of the most influential persons of the twentieth century.

At 3 o'clock on the morning of May 11, 1940, Winston Churchill clearly seemed to be a man who "had it all together," who knew who he was and what he was capable of doing in the crisis he faced. Let's look at what his words reveal about the man at this critical time.

After being asked by his king to form a new government, he works long into the night to put together a government in the midst of chaos and despair. Finally, as he goes to bed, he is "conscious of a profound sense of relief."

Relief? He was taking over the leadership of an unprepared country that was at war with the greatest military machine that had ever been created up to that point in history. Having just been given the biggest task of his life, he was experiencing "relief." He was having feelings of calmness and serenity. How could he possibly feel that upbeat, given the circumstances?

Churchill provides his own answer to that question: "At last I had the authority to give directions over the whole scene. I felt as if I were walking with Destiny." Have you ever felt that you had authority over the whole scene of your personal life? Have you ever felt that you were walking with destiny in your life? Winston Churchill did, and his words reveal a quiet confidence, a sense of self-worth. He was certain about his ability to lead and to find the answers that would bring his people through the crisis.

You're probably thinking, "That's all fine, but I'm not a Winston Churchill." Yet I believe we are all capable of having those same feelings of confidence and self-worth about our own spheres of influence. We may not have to face a crisis that involves saving the world, as Churchill did, but whatever our challenges in life may be, we are each capable of gaining the same kind of sureness and confidence.

We are going to talk about how to do just that. When you finally decide to take control of your life, to identify what matters most to you, to choose a direction and plan so that you know exactly where you're going and how to get there, you will have the same sense of relief that Churchill described in the midst of his country's darkest hour.

Winston Churchill's words also tell us something about how he arrived at this point: "all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial." Churchill's earlier political life had not been a bed of roses. He had even been out of favor in his own party as much as he had been in. But as he ascended to the pinnacle of political prominence, he seemed to realize that, in the words of General George C. Marshall who would head the U.S. Army during World War II, no defeat is ever final, it is just preparation for the next and greater battle.

So here was Winston Churchill, recognizing that he was prepared to take on this magnificent challenge, and as he reflected on his new responsibility, other things went through his mind. "I could not be reproached either for making the war or with want of preparation for it. I thought I knew a great deal about it all, and I was sure I should not fail" (emphasis added).

Churchill wasn't going into this ignorant of the facts. He had been thinking about and preparing for it for much of the previous six years. He had evaluated the situation, had carefully studied what he could of Hitler's war-making capability, and knew the strength and power of the British people when backed up against the wall. He knew that if he could rally the mind, spirit, and heart of the British people, they would eventually emerge victorious. On the eve of what could have been a disaster, Winston Churchill was able to say, "I was sure I should not fail." I stand in awe of the confidence that statement proclaims.

I also love the final lines of that quotation from his war memoirs: "Therefore, although impatient for the morning, I slept soundly and had no need for cheering dreams. Facts are better than dreams." Here Churchill exhibits what I have heard called a "divine impatience for the sun to come up the next morning." He couldn't wait to get started. He must have had some sense of the enormous task ahead. He knew all too well the state of the forces at his disposal and the resources needed to make it happen. He knew other allies needed to be involved in the effort, including a reluctant, isolationist United States. And still he couldn't wait for the next morning.

Have you ever found yourself impatient for the sun to come up? People without vision have no interest in seeing the sun come up the next day. But people with vision experience what Churchill experienced. They can't wait, and as soon as that sun comes up, they are out of bed. They have energy. They have excitement. They have a plan. They have vision. They know exactly where they are going and how they are going to get there.

So what happened after that fateful day in early May 1940? Armed with little more than the power of knowing who he was, Churchill first rallied a downcast and fearful nation with some of the most ringing oratory the world has ever heard. On June 4, 1940, less than a month after becoming prime minister, Churchill rose in the House of Commons to report on the progress of the war. The outlook was not good. The French were on the verge of collapse, about to surrender to Nazi Germany. The British had just about been able to evacuate from France much of their expeditionary force, which had been surrounded by the Germans at the northern French port of Dunkirk, but they had been forced to leave much military equipment behind. They now faced the almost certain invasion of their own island. In this deepening crisis, Winston Churchill outlined the situation to the House of Commons and closed with these stirring words:

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

It took another year and a half before the United States entered the war and tipped the balance in favor of Great Britain and her allies. In all that time, during which German aerial bombardment destroyed large sections of London and many British industrial cities, and citizens were armed with pitchforks and ancient firearms as they prepared to defend themselves against invasion, Churchill continued to thunder defiance at Hitler and marshaled what meagerresources he had to fight back. During those months, Winston Churchill not only saved Britain from defeat but, understood now in retrospect, he saved democracy as a form of government in the world. Here was truly a single individual whose life made a profound difference to everyone on our planet.

Other Heroes, Extraordinary and Ordinary

In thinking about my own heroes and talking with others about heroes, I am aware that they do not have to be Winston Churchills or other great historical figures. Some heroes are found in today's sports and media culture, some in unlikely places with unlikely missions. But most are ordinary individuals who know who they are and have discovered the power that comes from that special knowledge. Let's look at three such people; two are well known to almost everyone in the world, and the other is known to a relative few and probably doesn't realize that he is a hero. But he is a big hero to me.

Michael Jordan

In our age of instantaneous communication and widespread interest in sports, is there anyone on earth who has not heard of Michael Jordan? When he retired from the National Basketball Association in 1998, he was considered by many the best player ever to have played the game. This verdict came not only from his peers but from almost anyone who understands the game of basketball. There aren't many people who have received such recognition in the professional basketball arena.

There is no question that Michael Jordan was blessed with the physical equipment to be a great athlete. You couldn't watch hi...

Présentation de l'éditeur :

In What Matters Most, bestselling author Hyrum W. Smith explains why so many people feel something is missing from their lives because of conflicts between actions and personal values. Through compelling examples from others and from his own extensive experience, Smith outlines a simple but powerful formula to help you identify your own values and live them to the fullest. This strategy consists of three valuable steps:
Discover what matters most to you
Make a plan
Act on that plan
By incorporating Smith's strategy into your life, you will not only re-embrace your values but you will make them your priority. What Matters Most is an indispensable and timely guide to living a truly fulfilling life and becoming the person you always wanted to be.

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Description du livre SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 2001. Paperback. État : New. 211 x 140 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. In What Matters Most, bestselling author Hyrum W. Smith explains why so many people feel something is missing from their lives because of conflicts between actions and personal values. Through compelling examples from others and from his own extensive experience, Smith outlines a simple but powerful formula to help you identify your own values and live them to the fullest. This strategy consists of three valuable steps: Discover what matters most to you Make a plan Act on that plan By incorporating Smith s strategy into your life, you will not only re-embrace your values but you will make them your priority. What Matters Most is an indispensable and timely guide to living a truly fulfilling life and becoming the person you always wanted to be. N° de réf. du libraire AAC9780684872575

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