Steve Shallenberger: A big welcome to our guests – you, the listeners – wherever you may be in the world today, to the Becoming Your Best podcast show! And today, this podcast is inspired by a talk given by Joseph B. Wirthlin, who is an American businessman and a renowned religious leader. He lived to be 91 years old. A little side note to this: Joseph is also the grandfather of one of our dear friends, Dan McConkie – who we were fortunate enough to work together with, where we lived for three years, in Madrid, Spain, doing humanitarian service some years ago. This is a great experience! It’s so amazing! Dan is now a law professor at a top University in the mid-west.
Now, Joseph Wirthlin’s talk is a classic – and in it, he shared the following idea. By the way, the title of this is, ‘Come What May and Love It!’ I think you’re going to see in a moment, this is not just a saying; this is a way of thinking about life. And so, let’s just introduce this. Joseph shared that when he was young, he loved playing sports and he had fond memories of those days – he actually played University football. But not all of those were pleasant. He shared that he remembered one day after his football team had lost a tough game, he came home feeling discouraged, his mother was there, she listened to his sad story – she taught her children to trust in themselves and each other and not to blame others for their misfortunes and to give it their best effort in everything they attempted. So, when they fell down, she expected them to pick themselves up and get going again.
So, the advice that Joseph’s mother gave to him at that time, wasn’t altogether unexpected, and he related it stayed with him all of his life. Here’s what she said: “Joseph, come what may and love it!” He mentioned he had often reflected on that counsel. She may have meant that every life has peaks and shadows and times when it seems that the birds don’t sing and the bells don’t ring. Yet, despite discouragement and adversity, those who are happiest seem to have a way of learning from difficult times, becoming stronger, wiser, and happier as a result. And there may be some who think that their leaders or others rarely experience pain, suffering, and distress – or other people that they admire – if only that were true! Well, almost every person, man or woman, has experienced an abundant measure of joy. Each, also, has drunk deeply from the cup of disappointment, sorrow, and loss. None are really shielded from grief or sadness. This is part of life and part of humanity. Well, how little do we all know what awaits us as we go throughout life! But whenever we have things that lead through seasons of sadness and sorrow, that advice by Joseph Wirthlin’s mother is wonderful!
Come what may and love it! It’s an attitude about life. How can we love days that are filled with sorrow? Well, we can’t – I mean, if things are tough, they’re tough – at least not in that moment. And I don’t think Joseph’s mother was suggesting that we suppress discouragement or deny the reality of pain. And I don’t think she was suggesting we have pretended happiness. But the way we react to adversity can be a major factor in how happy and successful we can be in life. If we approach adversity wisely, our hardest times can be times of greatest growth, which in turn can lead towards times of greatest happiness.
So, the following are a few things that you can do to weather the storms, keep your feet under you, gain experience, and have greater happiness and success as you encounter the bumps and challenges and disappointments along the way of life. Alright, well, here are a few things that you could do.
The first one is that we can learn to laugh. Have you ever seen – and I love this quote by Joseph, “Have you ever seen an angry driver, who when someone else makes a mistake, reacts as though that person has insulted his honor, his family, his dog, and his ancestors, all the way back to Adam? Or have you had an encounter with an overhanging cupboard door that was left open at the wrong place and the wrong time, which has been cursed, condemned, and avenged by a sore-headed victim? Well, there is an antidote for these kinds of times.” I was just yesterday at The Memory Care Center where my wife happens to be a resident. The people that are the helpers, the caretakers, if you will, in this Care Center – which is magnificent – do a great job. And I just love them! One of them was a little frustrated yesterday. She had had a heck of a day and things were not going well. I kind of thought of this – Rachel, and all of the rest are so great – the antidote for times such as this is to just learn to laugh about it. It’s not always easy, but it helps when you keep things in perspective.
A couple of examples of this would be that some years ago – about 20 years ago – our family was in the Czech Republic. We had about 14 or 15 members of our family, and we were walking along the street in Prague, just enjoying the magnificent historic sites when, as I was looking around, on the sidewalk, following the family, I ran straight into a steel post on the sidewalk. I went straight down! I mean to tell you, it hurt! But when I saw our family laughing so hard tears were streaming down their face, how could I ever get upset? Well, not only did they warn me for the rest of the trip, “Hey, Dad! There’s a post on the sidewalk. Look out!” Ever since that time, the family joke is exactly that. All these years later, “Watch out, Dad! There’s a post!” We still laugh about this. It has been great!
And another time, I was traveling with one of my mentors and a board member for one of our companies, Gardner Russell, on the way to a company annual retreat in Laughlin, Nevada. We landed at the Las Vegas airport, Gardner flew in from Florida, and we rented our car and headed out. And Laughlin is about an hour and a half drive from Las Vegas. I might add that Laughlin is spelled Laugh-lin. That’s how it’s spelled, and there’s a reason! After 30 minutes of driving along, Gardner asked if he could drive. Well, he was about 75 years old at the time, and no problem, he was very capable. I pulled over and said, “Well, yeah, of course!” Well, after we had had a great time visiting and we had been driving for about two hours, and things were becoming more and more remote, then we saw a sign that said, “Welcome to San Bernardino County, California.” We were in the middle of the desert! I got out and flagged down the only car in sight coming from the other direction. I asked if they knew where Laughlin, Nevada was, and as the other person laughed, she asked if we had a lot of gas. Well, it became apparent we were still about an hour and a half from Laughlin. We have laughed about that forever! I said, “Nice driving, Gardner!” Gardner’s comment was, “Oh, well, it’s good for them to start a meeting without us from time to time!” It was a wonderful visit. Gardner later sent to me a pillow – that particular trip was full of adventures – and here’s what the pillow said on it: “We’ve been through a lot together, and most of it is your fault!” Well, we ultimately made it. We had a great time, a great experience. This is how we just laugh at it.
Now, Joseph Wirthlin shared this priceless story that happened to their family. He said, “I remember when one of our daughters went on a blind date. She was all dressed up, waiting for her date to arrive when the doorbell rang. In walked a man who seemed a little old, but she tried to be polite. She introduced him to me and my wife and the other children and then, she put on her coat and went out the door. We watched as she got into the car, but the car didn’t move. Eventually, our daughter got out of the car, red-faced, and ran back into the house. The man that she thought was her date – her blind date – had actually come to pick up another of our daughters who had agreed to be a babysitter for him and his wife. Well, we all had a good laugh over that. In fact, we couldn’t stop laughing. And later, when our daughter’s real blind date showed up, I couldn’t come out to meet him because I was still in the kitchen laughing. Now, I realize our daughter could have felt humiliated and embarrassed, but she laughed with us, and as a result, we still laugh about it today.”
So, the next time you are tempted to groan, you might try to laugh instead. It will extend your life and make the lives of all those around you more enjoyable. Here’s the second of three things that you can do to come what may and love it. Just remember the value of the refiners’ fire. I love the language in Cecil B. Demille’s movie, “The Ten Commandments” with Charlton Heston as Moses. As Rameses commands Moses to the desert once it’s discovered that he is the son of Hebrew slaves, he gives him a King’s Scepter – which is the staff, right? – and the scorpions and cobras and lizards as his subjects. “The man who walked with Kings, now walks alone as he’s walking across the desert!” goes the narrative. I love this! And this narrative is so compelling! “The hot winds and raging sands, moving forward, always forward, stripped of all earthly possessions. Each night brings the embrace of loneliness, all about is desolation. He is driven through the fiery furnace, until at last, when he is cleansed and purged for GOD’s purpose, the metal is ready for the maker’s hand.” Isn’t that awesome? This is an example of the refiners’ fire.
So, I think this is the second point. Just remember the value of the refiners’ fire of going through trials and becoming better because of it. You know, the refiners’ fire is a process of heating metal up to a high temperature, like 2000 degrees, which burns out the impurities or the dross, leaving the purest of gold or silver. 99% pure. And this is actually what happens to us as things heat up in our lives, as the dross is burned out – and it’s an opportunity to build character and strength; we become different as a result of these experiences. But when we see these difficult experiences for what they are – which is an opportunity to grow, an opportunity to be better, to be tested and respond, that’s the result of the refiners’ fire – there’s one other aspect to this and that is, what takes place in the process of tempering steel. Basically, what you take is an iron bar, which is brittle and can be broken with a hammer. However, when you heat it up to white hot, it changes the molecules within that bar and turns it as it cools down, usually in the air, and it becomes tempered steel. This process has the effect of toughening it by lessening brittleness and reducing the internal stress. It can take bending and is far more durable. And so, as we go through these processes of becoming tempered steel, of going through the refiners’ fire, the understanding that come what may and loving it, is an attitude of growing in life, of saying, “I’m going forward, I’m going to deal with this, I’m going to figure out how to embrace it and make the best of it.”
About 20 years ago, I read the obituary of a woman who fought a battle with cancer and finally succumbed to this disease. The Obit started with this comment, a reflection of her attitude: “I can do hard things.” Oh my goodness, I have never forgotten that obituary! It went on to talk about her attitude on facing her challenge lifted everyone around her. Her love, her compassion, her grit, her laughter, and spirit lifted her way above this challenge in life. Imagine the impact that this has had on everyone around her, including me who did not know her. So, we learn through adversity and challenges. We don’t ask for these hardships, but they are part of life. And these are the experiences that mold and form who we become. We can learn from adversity and setbacks. These kinds of experiences can allow us to learn, grow, and get better, which in turn, increases our chances for success.
Now, this can be illustrated by a couple that appeared in the divorce court. And the man explained to the judge his wife has been throwing things at him for 20 years. And the judge asked him why had he decided to file for divorce, now. He replied that her aim was getting so much better. This is the whole thought, right here, is that as we go through life, and we have these hot challenges and burdens, just like we’re in now – I mean, just think, like, right now, we’ve got a worldwide pandemic that has been so devastating. But also, at this very moment, we have the worst fires in the history of California going on. We have hurricanes taking place in the South-East of the United States, just getting ready to hit the shore. Well, things are gonna come, aren’t they? And so, we have to stand up and figure out how to do better. And that’s the whole idea of this.
Dale Carnegie said, “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain – and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding.” So, when you are focused on this attitude of “Come What May and Love It”, you are committed to actively doing the opposite of what Dale Carnegie warned us against.
Last of all, as we think about what we can do, as we encounter going through these challenges in life, and making life happy, making life joyful, is that we can exercise faith and hope. So, number one is, learn to laugh. Number two is, realize that the refiners’ fire is a process that can be helpful to us. And number three is exercise faith and hope. The definition of faith from the dictionary is ‘a strong belief, a confidence, or a trust in someone or something. It’s a belief in the existence of God or belief that is not based on proof.’ And so, in other words, he had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact. And the fruits of having faith are strength, hope, and peace. Whatever your beliefs, isn’t it wonderful to know that there is the hope of an after a while and everything will be okay?
My friend, Norman Vincent Peale, a great pastor from a church in New York – he wrote a book called ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’ – said this: “Become a possibilitarian. No matter how dark things seem to be or are, raise your sights and see the possibilities. Always see them! For they’re always there.” There are many things that strengthen faith: simply believing the reflection of the blessings that you have in life, your experiences in the past, nature, outdoors, the stars and the heavens, meditation, prayer, scriptures – examples of life can all strengthen your faith.
One of the verses from the Bible, the Old Testament that has comforted me and allowed me to have faith and hope is Proverbs 3:5-6. This was also one of the very favorite verses for my great-grandpa, Charles Baker. He actually memorized it and this gives me a real connection with him. He trusted in the Lord. Here’s the quote, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, lean not unto thine own understanding, acknowledge Him in all thy ways and – here’s the promise – He will direct thy paths.” So, that is great because it requires some humility, it requires reaching out and gaining strength from above and accomplishing things maybe we didn’t think it was possible.
In our most difficult times, we can find peace that things will work out. You can say to yourself, “It’s okay. I’m gonna make it through this! This too will pass!” And then, look for the good. You can say what we’ve talked about before it’s another way of this mindset of “Come What May and Love It!” You can say, “What a blessing!” and then think of a reason it is so and will enjoy the benefits of that setback.
Well, when I was in my early 20s, as we kind of wrap up today, and getting to the end of our session, I heard a man share the following poem. It’s entitled “Just keep on”. I’ve never forgotten it and I’ve committed it to memory. It goes like this:
“Keep on a-‘livin and a-‘keep on a-‘givin,
And a-’keep on a-’trying to smile.
Just a-‘keep on a-‘singin, and a-‘trustin, and a-‘clingin,
To the Promise of an after while.
For the sun comes up and the sun goes down,
And the morning follows night.
There’s a place to rest, like a mother’s breast
And a time when things come right!
Just a-‘keep on a-‘believin and a-‘hidin all your grievin,
Just a-‘keep on a-‘tryin to cheer.
Just a-‘keep on a-‘prayin, and a-‘lovin, and a-‘sayin,
The things we love to hear.
For the tide comes in and the tide goes out,
And the dark will all turn bright!
There’s a rest from the load and an end to the road,
And a time when things come right!
Everything will work out.”
Now, as we reflect on the wonderful counsel offered by Joseph Wirthlin’s mother close to 100 years ago, come what may and love it! This is grand advice on how to handle the setback, the good times, the tough times, to take responsibility and move forward to make the best of life that could ever be possible. Indeed, this is the entire spirit of becoming your best! It’s not becoming your best if everything is just going okay, if it’s going your way, right? It’s becoming your best as you journey through life, it’s this refiners’ fire, it’s the rock-polishing process that will bring you the greatest joy, satisfaction, happiness, and success in life.
I love this quote by Marcus Aurelius, almost 2000 years ago, “When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive, to breathe, to think, to enjoy, and to love. So, the next time something goes wrong, say to yourself, “Come what may and love it!” It’s been a privilege to be together with you today. We are wishing you the best in all that you do, and bidding you a happy, productive, safe day. This is Steve Shallenberger, your host with Becoming Your Best Global Leadership.