No Faith in Complaints

People like to complain.

Yeah, Paul,” you might say, “thanks for that big news flash.

Yes, it’s nothing new.  We like to complain.  People build monuments to their complaining.

A History of Complaining

Moses leads the Nation of Israel out of slavery in Egypt.  No sooner does the Red Sea return to form then the complaints start.  They complained there wasn’t enough water.  So God gave them water.  They complained there wasn’t enough food (I’m HUNGRY!), so God gave them all the manna they could want.  So they complained about the lack of variety (Is this all there is?)!.  They complained about the long trek in the desert (Are we there yet?).  They complained about their leaders, even the ones who not too long ago led them out of slavery (Do you know where we are going?  Did you check the map?  Shouldn’t you stop at a gas station and ask directions?)!

Come to think of it, they kind of set the precedent for many of the complaints we use today!

Complaining on the Media

Andy Rooney revived his career by acting as a curmudgeon on the TV show 60 Minutes.  Every week, Andy would pick a different topic to take off on and complain about.  One that always stuck out in my mind was complaining about shampoo and how expensive it is and how it is marketed, stating that all he does is take a little bath soap and rub it in his hair.

Then in 2007 there was this ABC news story about a “complaint choirs“, groups of people who put complaints to music.

There’s actually a website called My Biggest Complaint that documents the popularity of various complaint topics.

Local Complaints

We live in what used to be a rural area, which means wild animals.  So one neighbor shortly after we moved in complained about the peacocks wandering the neighborhood and wanted them removed by Animal Control.  Uhhhh, why exactly did you move out here?

No Solution in Sight

The problem with complainers is that there is generally very little action behind it.  In fact, quite often the complaints about things which nobody can really do anything about.  It’s like the old joke that everyone complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it!

People who complain are generally not people who take action.  As Edmund Burke once commented

It is a general popular error to imagine the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare.

Complainers don’t want action, they don’t want resolution.  They want to tell everyone about it!  If your solve the problem, well, now they can’t tell everyone about it.  I mean, seriously, have you ever tried to help a chronic complainer solve a problem.  They will resist with every fiber of their being and come up with every reason in the book why it can’t be solved.  Why? Because they don’t want it solved, they want to complain.  It’s a happy place!

There is Another Breed

You and I are different.  We want to take action and solve problems.  We want to work towards solutions and help make the world a better place.  I certainly remember graduating from college with the arrogant attitude of changing the world with my ideas.  After awhile, you discover that the world is not as receptive to your revolutionary ideas for changing themselves as you thought they would be.

Changing the world can be a very daunting task.  There is so much to be done!  We don’t have enough people to do it or enough time.

Perhaps the problem is that we are so focused on trying to change what we can’t that we forget to change what we can.  There is an old verse, no one is quite sure who wrote it, that goes like this

“Build a better world,”  God said.   I answered, “How?

The world is such a deep, dark place, oh so complicated now; 

And I’m so small and useless, there’s nothing I can do.”

But God in all His wisdom said, “Just build a better YOU.”

If we want to change the world, we must first change ourselves.  In fact, that should be our focus.  And that alone is an extremely challenging task.  We are as resistant to change as all those people we tried to change before.  But we have to believe that we CAN change.  We must have faith that we are capable of making the necessary changes.  Faith that we will acquire the wisdom, the courage, the discipline, and the focus to re-invent ourselves and make something new.  When we change ourselves substantially, the world around us changes because our perspective changes, our attitude changes, and our approach changes.

If you want to believe in the world and believe in change, you must first have faith in yourself.  When you believe in you and your ability to simply serve others, the world will change for you.

Action Plan

  1. Create a list of character traits or characteristics you would like to have or improve; like discipline, focus, finish what you started, etc.  Shoot for at least 12 items.  Prioritize the list in terms of which ones need the most attention.
  2. For each one, define specifically what the desired behavior would look like.  In other words, how do you know when you are disciplined? How do you know when you are focused?  Make it measurable if possible.
  3. Try the Benjamin Franklin method of Self-Improvement.  I learned this from Bob Burg a while ago and found it very useful.  I would make that chart available but don’t own the rights to it; so you will have to make your own.  You can probably do this Microsoft Word or Excel.
    1. Make a grid chart with the days of the week at the top going across.
    2. In a column down the left side list the traits you want to work on in priority order.
    3. Attack the first trait in week one.  Concentrate on the desired behavior and each day place a check when you are successful.  You are building precedent for desired behavior.
    4. The next week attack the second trait, while still also being mindful of the first.
    5. Keep going until all traits have been addressed, each time being mindful of previous behaviors.
  4. Don’t worry if you falter on occasion; that’s to be expected. What we are shooting for is Progress, not Perfection.

Stepping Out in Faith

One of my favorite parts in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is towards the end where Indiana is trying to get into the room where the Holy Grail is.  He knows he has to reach it in order to help his father, who lies bleeding from a gun shot wound in a cave in the mountain.  As he gets closer to the cave where the grail is supposed to be, he reaches a large chasm that he must cross to reach it.  The chasm is wide and there is no jumping across it and it seems to drop down with no bottom.  His only hint is clue he got from ancient scrolls that says, “Only with a leap from the lion’s den will he prove his worth.”  Indiana has doubts and hesitates and then his father, almost telepathically, murmurs, “you must believe, boy, you must believe!”  Indiana steadies his heart and then takes a step.  He has to simply step out in faith that there is something out there that will support him.  It was a leap of faith for him!  And it worked!  He found that there was a camouflaged bridge to convey him to the other side.   You can see the scene here:  Leap of Faith Scene
When crisis hits is when our faith is put to the test.  Anyone can believe what they see or when the evidence supports it; although there are certainly cynical people that don’t even do that much.  It’s the moments when everything we see and all of the evidence seems to be against us that we must believe completely that we can accomplish our goals.  We have to engage in a leap of faith that things are going to work out as long as we continue to work towards them.  There are going to be moments where we are growing, moments that are going to test our faith.  We have to step out in that leap of faith and trust that things will work out.
In the Bible it tells the story of Jesus walking on the water.  Peter asks to join him and Jesus simply says, “come”.  Peter steps out of the boat onto the swelling waves and takes a few steps and then….falls into the water.  Peter took a leap of faith that he too could walk on water like Jesus.  Once he realized what he was doing, his mind started putting in limiting beliefs and into the drink he went.
Like Peter, we need to be reminded to keep the faith and step out of the boat; confident that we will reach our goal.
Here are some things to help you keep going and keep working towards those goals:
  • Keep Moving!  Don’t Stop!
  • Don’t buy into what others say about you.  There will be doubters but don’t let that stop you.
  • Use Daily Positive Self-Talk greatly helps you maintain the right attitude.
  • Focus on your strengths.  Know what it is that you are good at doing and find people to come and work with you whose strengths overcome your weaknesses.
  • Commit to daily growth.  Become a 1%er!  If you commit yourself to grow daily then you can overcome the obstacles that get in your way.

Over the Bar

You ever watch the High Jump during the Olympics or on television during one of the rare occasions they show track and field events?   I think the competition is somewhat cool, probably at least partly because I can’t do it very well. I have never been a very good jumper either horizontally or vertically.  The idea is that the athlete approaches a horizontal bar and attempts to leap over it without knocking the bar down.  Each time they raise the bar a little higher.  Naturally, whoever jumps the highest wins.

The first recorded High Jump event was in the 19th century in Scotland.  They would basically just scissors-kick over the bar.  That advanced to running up to the bar and then throwing the one leg over and then the other.  Shortly after people innovated with “roll” techniques where they would almost literally roll their body over the bar.  For protection, there would be a sawdust pit on the other side of the bar for a landing area.

Changing the Landscape

dick fosbury taking a leap of faithThe real innovation happened in 1968 when Dick Fosbury of Oregon State University employed a totally different technique.  By this time, the saw dust pit gave way to a cushioned landing area.  Fosbury would run up on the bar at an angle and the thrust himself backwards over the bar, head first, and complete the jump by “flopping” his legs over and landing on his back.  Fosbury used this technique to win the Gold Medal in the 1968 Olympics.  Today, almost every high jumper uses the “Fosbury Flop” technique.  The current record, according to, is 8 feet and one-half inch set by Javier Sotomayor from Cuba.

Leap of Faith

The reason I mention this is an observation made about the flop technique.  If you were to do that and land on hard ground or even in the old saw dust pits, you would likely break your neck.  In other words, if the cushion wasn’t there and you landed, you would be in a whole lot of trouble.  Broken bones, skull and brain damage would be highly probable.  But the flopper, because of the technique, doesn’t get to see the landing area as they are jumping; they simply have faith that it is there and that they will land in the right spot.  It is a LEAP OF FAITH in their ability to complete the jump.

The high jumper makes this leap of faith because they believe in their skills, their training, their visualization, and their execution to make the jump without getting injured.  He TRUSTS himself to do what he has prepared and trained to do.  He doesn’t wonder if any kind of outside force is going to get in the way, he trusts his body and his training to get the job done.  He doesn’t create excuses for why he can’t jump today, he just goes and gets the job done.

taking a leap of faithEven though he BELIEVES he will be successful every time he jumps, he actually doesn’t KNOW until it is over whether he has been successful or not.  So, the high jumper has FAITH in his ability to perform every time; even when he is unsuccessful or bettered by others.  At no point does he give up because the weather got in his way, or the bar was mounted incorrectly, or there are others competing that are more athletic or talented.  He ignores all outside factors and simply has FAITH in his skills and training and performs the best he can.

Flopping Our Way to Success

You and I may not be jumping over a bar 8 foot of the ground, (I already mentioned I am a terrible jumper), but we face hurdles and walls as we pursue our goals and dreams.  To overcome those hurdles and complete our mission successfully, we have to have FAITH in our abilities, prepare ourselves for success, expect success, and then success will come.  We won’t really be able to see the landing area until we are up and over the bar, and sometimes not until we land.  But the landing area is there and we have believe we will clear the hurdles and land successfully.  That is our LEAP OF FAITH.

What’s keeping you from making that LEAP OF FAITH?  What is argument you give yourself?  Is it true?  It is always true?  How can you prepare yourself more effectively to take a Leap of Faith?  How can you reinforce your beliefs everyday to keep that faith alive?

Action Plan

  •  Target an area where you feel like you are not where you want to be. Where do you want to be?  What do you think is holding you back from reaching that goal?
  • Apply a little realism.  Are the things you THINK are holding you back real or imagined?  Are they simply excuses?  It’s time to be brutally honest with yourself.  Yeah, you know the real answer!
  • Read or listen to a daily affirmation to keep a positive mindset.  Reading it out loud is best because the most important words you hear are the ones you say to yourself.  This is not (necessarily) New Age stuff; it is real and valid. Zig Ziglar, Norman Vincent Peale, and others have promoted positive affirmations as a way of changing your mindset and your life.  Here’s a good one from Hal Elrod or you can get one from Zig.  I prefer the Ziglar version, although it is a little longer.
  • Engage in your daily personal growth to prepare yourself for success.  Remember, be a 1%er.

“You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.”

Zig Ziglar