Life presents unimaginable challenges. What distinguishes the world-class leader from the rest is the abiliy to overcome those challenges. To be honest, I’ve not always been an overcomer. I have at times allowed circumstances, inner fears, and external critics to block me from achieving great things. In this post, I want to share some lessons I have learned along the way about how to be an overcomer.
To overcome is to subdue, conquer, prevail or win the victory. The implication is that we are at war. In times of peace, there is no need for conquerors or victors.
So — if we are at war — who is our enemy? I don’t know about you, but for me the experience has been that I am most at war with my own self-defeating impulses. Call it what you may — but I tend to agree with the religious understanding of this tendency as “orgininal sin.”
G. K. Chesterton once said, “Original sin . . . is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.” Who can deny that human beings have a tendency toward self-destruction — whether at an individual or global level?
But we also have a generative impulse to do good and to improve life, not only for ourselves, but also for our fellow human beings. Overcoming is what happens when this generative impulse wins out over the self-destructive impulse.
If we have this choice set before us between good and evil, then why do so many of us choose the latter? That is a question I have asked of myself many times. What I keep coming back to for an answer is FEAR.
We are often afraid to think in terms of victory. There is a great passage in Alfred Lansing’s book, “Endurance,” — a true story about the disasterous 1914 voyage of Sir Ernest Shackelton and his crew in Antarctica and their amazing trek to safety after being trapped in the ice for months.
Their goal was to be the first humans to cross the Antarctic. However, upon arriving to the Waddle sea, their ship became stuck in the ice pack and eventually was crushed. For five months they drifted on the ice, trying to stay alive on what seemed to be a solid block of ice and blinding whiteness as far as the eye could see. But gradually, as the ice turned, they drew closer to the open sea and the ice began to have a gentle movement. Author Alfred Lansing describes the creeping desperation and anxiety that began to plague the team as hope began to creep back into their thinking.
Until the appearance of the swell, many of the men had struggled for months not to let hope creep into their minds. For the most part, they had convinced themselves not only that the party would have to winter on the floes–but even that such a fate would be quite endurable. But then came the swell–the physical proof that there really was something outside this limitless prison of ice. And all the defenses they had so carefully constructed to prevent hope from entering their minds collapsed.
Many of us have been beaten down so many times by failure that we are afraid to hope for victory.
I think some people are defeated by their own definition of victory. They think that, once they achieve their dream, life will suddenly become a stroll in the flower garden. We are surprised and dismayed by the effort it takes to keep out the weeds.
The bottom line is that being an overcomer is a life-long career. The struggle never ends. We will always face serious obstacles to our dreams. Sometimes these obstacles come from outside ourselves but, more often than not, they come from within our own personal issues.
World-class leaders are overcomers. They have learned to press on beyond the struggles, to find energy and strength within themselves and from God to push forward — in spite of life’s contrary nature — toward the goal of success, meaning, and a generative contribution to humanity.
 Chesterton, G. K. Orthodoxy. New York: Image Books/Doubleday, 1991, p. 9.
Photo by swallothemoon, 7 November 2004. Available at www.Flickr.com
Greg Waddell provides consulting services for churches and organizations. Contact Dr. Waddell today at gregwaddell[at]leadstrategic.com to discuss the needs of your organization.