May
16

Leadership Principle: Purpose Defeats Misfortune

by  Mike Henry  |  Leadership Development

“Great minds have purposes, others have wishes. Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune; but great minds rise above them.” – Washington Irving

There are two types of people in the world; those that are experiencing misfortune and those who are about to be. The measure of you as a person lies in your response to events. At some point in your life, those events will be classified as misfortune. Rather than plan to avoid misfortune, you will be better off if you plan your response to it. How will you respond?

Washington Irving confronts us comparing great and small minds. A great mind has a purpose and rises above misfortune. It has the ability to focus on objectives beyond the present.  Great minds rise.  Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune. Weak minds fall.  The difference between a great mind and a small mind according to Irving: a great purpose.

Do you know your purpose? Are you living for something great enough to pull you through misfortune? Your purpose is the object of your effort in life. If your wealth and comfort are your ultimate purpose, that purpose won’t pull you through great misfortune.

Great purposes energize us and focus our thoughts. A great purpose helps us remember our goals when we might choose lesser objectives . A great reason for saving money or getting out of debt can enable you to avoid the instant gratification of a shiny new purchase. The goal of a strong family pulls us through times of temptation to selfishness. Someone once said that discipline is just remembering what you want.

But we also see that “wishes” oppose or contrast purpose. A wish is something you merely dream about but refuse to take action toward. Your commitment to a wish is weak. Have you ever thrown a penny in a wishing well? What did you get? A common saying when I was growing up was, “Wish in one hand and spit in the other and see which one gets filled up the fastest.” A wish won’t pull you above misfortune. Only purpose will. Only an object you’ve committed yourself and your effort to.

And, the greater the purpose, the greater the misfortune it can help you overcome. Great misfortune inspires you to reach to a great purpose to pull you through. You won’t sacrifice for a wish, only a purpose. Great misfortune calls you to your greatest purpose – something outside yourself and greater than yourself. Focus on your greatest purpose to pull yourself through difficult times and achieve great results.

Misfortune is inevitable. Pursue your greatest purpose and you will rise above the inevitable misfortunes that come your way.

Photo istockphoto © Greg Epperson

What’s Next? Please leave a comment below to join the conversation…

About The Author

Articles By mike-henry
Chief Instigator (Founder) of Lead Change Group and VP of IT for a mid sized technology company. Passionate about character-based leadership and making a positive difference.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Chery Gegelman  |  16 May 2011  |  Reply

Great Post Mike! I could not agree more! “It is about finding purpose in the misfortune and intentionally learning from it that makes the difference.”

For me finding purpose in a time like that came from this quote From Bruce Wilkinson’s book The Dream Giver: “The single best way to develop leaders is to take people out of their safe environments, and away from the people they know, and throw them into a new arena they know little about. Way over their head, preferably. In fact the more demanding their challenges, the more pressure and risk they face, the more likely a dynamic leader will emerge.”

Mike Henry  |  16 May 2011  |  Reply

Thanks for the comment Chery. The more I read about vision and purpose, like with Full Steam Ahead, the more I’m convinced that great vision and purpose solve many ills. I’ve said before that problems focus us but it’s not the problem so much as it is a focus on the solution. When our purpose is noble and the gap between that purpose and where we are is felt and real, much can be accomplished.

Thanks again. Mike…

Garry Trammell  |  16 May 2011  |  Reply

Mike, this post is an absolute gem of wisdom!

I especially love “And, the greater the purpose, the greater the misfortune it can help you overcome. Great misfortune inspires you to reach to a great purpose to pull you through. You won’t sacrifice for a wish, only a purpose. Great misfortune calls you to your greatest purpose – something outside yourself and greater than yourself. Focus on your greatest purpose to pull yourself through difficult times and achieve great results.”

That kind of thinking, and purpose, has pulled me through several life “crises” and also resulted in the side benefit of shaping and maturing my children. Both types of thinking, with or without a purpose, leave a legacy. For those of us with children, I know which type of thinking, and purpose, I want to embrace.

Mike Henry  |  16 May 2011  |  Reply

Garry, thanks for the comment. You’re correct, with or without a purpose, we will leave a legacy. And we won’t get to make excuses for it or blame anyone or anything for our legacy either. Thanks for the great reminder. Mike…

Denise W. Barreto  |  16 May 2011  |  Reply

Mike – you are on point! It was from great misfortune in my personal life in 2008 that I recovered and found my life’s work… revolutionizing relationships on planet Earth, one at a time. Now I am certain that no matter what comes my way – I can not only survive but thrive because I have a clear purpose for what I want to do the rest of my life. I would not trade the circumstances that got me here for anything.

Mike Henry  |  20 May 2011  |  Reply

Denise, I’m glad for you. I often find myself wanting to trade, but realizing that I’m probably better off. I can “remember” concepts like this much better in the past or when they’re not happening directly to me. Thanks for making it personal.

Mike…

Join The Conversation