A couple of years ago, shortly after he announced his retirement from football, I heard Kurt Warner speak about attaining success. His message was simple: The path to true success requires suffering and sacrifice.
That’s hard to remember when we see successful people. They make things seem effortless, and we tend to believe they are where they are only because they’ve been given talent. That’s true to a point, but raw talent is not enough to create sustained success.
Warner is a perfect example. He had talent, but he also had the door slammed in his face on several occasions. He didn’t have many chances to play in college. He tried out with the Green Bay Packers and never made the roster. He stocked grocery store shelves to make extra money. He pursued his dream in some relatively unglamorous venues, such as arena football and NFL Europe.
When he got his chance in St. Louis, he looked as though he had come from nowhere to be able to drive his team play by play, game by game, victory by victory, to the 2000 Super Bowl. The truth is that he endured a lot of suffering and sacrifice before he reached success.
When he got his chance, he had developed the right skills and also the right attitude. He didn’t take success for granted. He didn’t believe he was God’s gift to the game. He knew how to play his role in a game won by teams, not individuals.
When his career hit the skids again, he didn’t give up, even when most of football and many fans gave up on him. He kept fighting, kept sacrificing, and kept working for the day when he would once again be a starter. He got his chance in Arizona, and once again, he was ready.
The story is the same for all those who have achieved great, sustained success – the Beatles, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein and, in our generation, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. They all were brilliant in their own ways. I don’t know whether they were born brilliant, but I know for certain that they became more so by subjecting themselves to suffering and by sacrificing short-term gain and pleasure for long-term success.
The material rewards of success may be harder to come by today in this strapped global economy, so your dreams of fortune may need to be put on the back shelf for a while. But your dreams of being competent, respected and trusted can be realized in any age, at any time. Work on those. You’ll have those rewards. You’ll already be a success, and when things right themselves, you’ll be in good position to reap other rewards as well.