“Andrew Carnegie famously put it. There’s nothing shameful about sweeping. It’s just another opportunity to excel—and to learn. But you, you’re so busy thinking about the future, you don’t take any pride in the tasks you’re given right now. You just phone it all in, cash your paycheck, and dream of some higher station in life. Or you think, This is just a job, it isn’t who I am, it doesn’t matter. Foolishness. Everything we do matters—whether it’s making smoothies while you save up money or studying for the bar—even after you already achieved the success you sought.”
There are many poignant and powerful quotes in Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle Is The Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph. In this mesmerizing narrative that recounts the experience of many past and present day leaders reminds us to practice presence, separate what is from what we think it should be, and ultimately find a way to succeed no matter what the obstacle is, the Andrew Carnegie quote stands out to us. It stands out to us because so many of us — and we’re guilty of this too — spend energy and time preparing for the next opportunity instead of giving what is right in front of us 100%.
In our view, underlying this theme is the idea of gratitude. If we are mindful about being sincerely grateful and present we would naturally appreciate our existing situation and give the best of ourselves to it — whether that’s an existing job, a college assignment, or a social networking opportunity. That doesn’t mean settle. Far from it. In fact, by applying ourselves and bringing our “A” game to everything we do, our performance will speak for itself and vast opportunities for more greatness will take shape.
Beyond increased opportunity and success, research has found that when people felt more grateful, their brain activity shows greater activity in the medial prefrontal cortex —the brain region that plays a determinative role in planning complex cognitive behavior, personality expression, decision making, and moderating social behavior. These “brain benefits” are often long lasting and intensify with a consistent gratitude practice.
So, this holiday season — when it’s really easy to be affected by financial stress, working longer hours, or getting caught up in the never ending gift game — the biggest present you can give yourself and those around is your presence, best effort in all you, and sincere gratitude for everything you are.
Here’s a quote from one of our other favorites, Rumi, he makes this point even more simply. Happy Holidays!