Carl Mays: Have the courage to try

Jan. 16, 2014 @ 11:19 PM

Different people at different times have different definitions of success.

This past week I ran across a definition shared by Jane Pauley. I saw it in a recent issue of Parade magazine – and I liked it. Pauley was co-anchor on NBC’s Today show from 1976 to 1989, then went on to co-host Dateline NBC for 11 years. In 2004, she was the host of the short-lived Jane Pauley Show.

She has returned to Today to host a monthly segment profiling people who have reinvented themselves in middle age. Her new book, “Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life,” is out this month.

Now 63, Pauley is candid about her own setbacks and disappointments in life, including the challenge of a bipolar disorder diagnosis and the cancellation of her 2004 daytime show. She says, “My definition of success is having the courage to try.”

To me, Pauley’s definition of success brings to mind three historical definitions. First, there is the proclaimed credo of author Jack London who wrote “The Call Of The Wild,” among other classics:

“I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to really live, not to just exist. I shall not waste my days. Rather I shall use my time!”

A sports journalist who was a big London fan once quoted London’s credo to NFL Super Bowl Champion Oakland Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler and asked what the words meant to him.

Without hesitation, Stabler replied, “Throw deep.” In other words, “Go for it!”

Second, Pauley’s definition reminds me of the often-quoted words of America’s 26th President, Teddy Roosevelt:

“The credit in life does not go to the critic who stands on the sideline and points out where the strong stumble or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The real credit belongs to the one who is actually in the arena, whose face may be marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms and great devotions; who spends himself or herself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if failing, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his or her place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Third, but certainly not last, I am reminded of the words attributed to Jesus as presented in the New Testament’s Book of Revelation (3:15-16):

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth.”

Like many of my readers, I have tried some things and felt the joy of achieving them; I have tried some things and felt the anguish of coming up short. And like many of my readers, I have felt the satisfaction of having the courage to try. Today, may we acknowledge the words of Jane Pauley, Jack London, Teddy Roosevelt and Jesus.

© 2014 by Carl Mays, National Speakers Association Hall of Fame member and author of over a dozen books. E-mail or view