The Spanish Cellist Pablo Casals is considered to be the pre-eminent cellist of the 20th century and one of the greatest of all time. Throughout his lengthy career, which spanned more than 81 years, he was known for his virtuosic skills, consummate interpretations, and flawless musicianship. He performed solo, chamber, and orchestral music, in addition to composing and conducting symphonies. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy. In 1971, at the age of ninety-five, he performed his "Hymn of the United Nations" before the United Nations General Assembly. Casals inspired harmony across the globe with both his cello and his quiet, gentle demeanor.
During his career, he was known for his relentless commitment to practicing and improving his skills. After the Germans were driven out of his country in 1944, when he was 67 years old, he wrote a friend, “Now that the enemy has been forced to leave, I have resumed my practicing and you will be pleased to know that I feel that I am making daily progress.” When he performed at the U.N. at age 81, a writer asked him why he continued to practice four and five hours a day. Casals answered, “Because I think I am making progress.” When he reached the golden age of 95, another writer asked, “Mr. Casals, you are 95 and the greatest cellist that ever lived. Why do you still practice six hours a day?” Again, he answered, “Because I think I’m making progress.” His continual striving to learn reflected his modest approach to his art and is the key to the secret of why Casals appeared to keep getting better regardless of age.
You are never too young or old to learn something new. Learning keeps your brain stimulated and growing throughout your life. It’s never too late to start doing what you want to do—creativity and innovation don’t come with an expiration date. You’re never too old to accomplish your dreams, so don’t wait—get started now. Here are some tips for helping you learn at any age:
On September 2, 2013, at the age of sixty-four, Diana Nyad completed a heroic feat of both endurance and human willpower, when she emerged upon the sands of Key West after swimming 111 miles in fifty-three hours, from Cuba to Florida. Nyad carried three messages with her on that dangerous journey through shark-infested waters, which she relayed to the awaiting crowd upon her arrival:
People around the world cheered her on, inspired by her irrefutable determination to be the first person to conquer the historic crossing without the aid of a shark cage. Her amazing triumph was especially meaningful because it culminated a thirty-five-year journey—inspired by four crushing failures on previous attempts through those same dangerous waters, only to be foiled by injuries and inclement weather conditions. At one point during the journey, she began vomiting because she had so much salt water in her system and was shivering incessantly from the cold. She even sang lullabies to help her relax as she kept repeating her mantra Find a Way, which became the title of the book she wrote to recount the experience. Within the depths of her darkest moments, she clung to the thought: "You don't like it. It's not going well. Find a way."
Endurance is essential for anyone who sets their mind to be successful—whether it is to win a race, start a business, build a great relationship, or achieve any big courageous dream or goal. It reflects both your mental and physical fortitude to withstand something highly challenging and to do something difficult for a long period of time. When you have endurance, you are confident that you can handle the consequences of life decisions and are willing to “find a way” to stick it out. One of the biggest reasons people fail in any great endeavor is because they don’t have the endurance to keep pushing through after they fail. And most of us fail…and fail…and fail again. Success is always to be found on the other side of failure.
You develop endurance every time you withstand the temptation to give up. It is not when you’re at the top of your game that you discover your best self—it is when you’re pressing your way through the darkest moments that your true strength emerges. How do you build endurance? Purposely push yourself each day beyond your comfort zone, both physically and mentally. Start developing qualities now that will train you to succeed when difficult times arise. With endurance, you’ll be able to find a way to survive anything that is asked of you.
Zeal is a powerfully constructive force when combined with knowledge—and devastatingly dangerous when motivated by a misinformed mind. Neither the mind nor zeal will do much good without knowledge. Zeal must be cautious as well as warm—fire is good in a chimney, but it can burn down your house if it spreads to the rafters of your roof. Even the most well-intentioned zeal could prove to be harmful, if it isn’t tempered with knowledge. On the other hand, in the absence of zeal, everything seems to be done with a “ho-hum” or a “have-to” sense of obligation. Opportunity may open the door that leads toward success, but without zeal you won’t step through to take advantage of it. Knowledge can be taught, but it is much more difficult to make someone be passionate about something.
Just to clarify, the type of knowledge we are referring to here is that which is embodied by wisdom—the very name of our species, Homo sapiens, signifies "wise man." People often speak of knowledge and wisdom as though the two are the same, and both have quite a bit in common. The primary difference is that wisdom involves a healthy measure of perspective and the ability to make sound judgments about a matter, while knowledge is simply knowing. Anyone can become knowledgeable by reading, researching, and memorizing facts. Wisdom is knowing how to apply what is learned in a way that is beneficial. When balanced together, zeal and knowledge embodied with wisdom provide an indomitable force for successful living!
Wisdom is only acquired through experience, which also provides us more knowledge to navigate new challenges in life. If you are interested in trying new things and willing to reflect on the process, you have the ability to gain wisdom. Furthermore, by learning everything you can and spending time analyzing your experiences, then putting your knowledge into practice, you can become a wiser person. And with more wisdom, you will be able to avoid making repeated mistakes in the future. Here are some tips for gaining wisdom and knowledge:
Can you recall a time somebody was kind to you? What did that feel like? Kindness is defined as an act of being friendly, generous, and considerate, as well as affectionate, gentle, and caring. Studies have shown that kindness is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in interpersonal relationships. So much so, that many universities are now emphasizing kindness on applications for admission.
People flourish when they are treated with kindness and it becomes even more apparent with age. Showing kindness doesn’t have to cost anything or take much of your time. It can be as simple as a warm smile, a touch, or a word of encouragement. There is a strong relationship between feeling happy and simply being kind―it will be difficult for you to be angry, resentful, or fearful while you are showing kindness towards others. Consequently, when you act with kindness, it not only affects the other person, it elevates your own health and well-being.
Keep your eyes open for opportunities to show acts of kindness to others. Give an encouraging word or a smile, open a door for someone, help carry a heavy load, or any action made for the sake of caring. Other ways to practice kindness could be: celebrating someone you love; telling someone how special she is to you; paying a genuine compliment; giving honest feedback; sending a thank you card or e-mail; helping an elderly neighbor with their yard work; taking a picture of someone and sending it to them; sharing homemade food; or donating clothes and other items that will enrich others’ lives.
Imagine you have a massive metal flywheel, approximately thirty feet in diameter, two feet thick, weighing almost three tons, mounted horizontally on an axle. Your task is to get the flywheel rotating on the axle as fast and for as long as possible. At first you begin to apply great effort to get the flywheel to inch forward very slowly. You keep pushing and grunting, and after hours of perseverance you get the flywheel to rotate one complete turn. You keep pushing as the flywheel begins to move a little faster, and with continued effort it makes a second rotation. You continue to push in a consistent direction. Three turns, then four, five and six—it builds up more and more speed with each turn as momentum continues to build. Nine turns, then ten, and the flywheel moves faster with each turn—twenty, thirty, forty, fifty…a hundred!
At some point, momentum shifts in your favor, heaving the flywheel forward at greater speeds, turn after turn, as the law of inertia helps the heavy weight actually begin to work for you. You’re not pushing any harder, but the flywheel moves faster and faster. Each turn builds upon the work you have already done, compounding your investment of effort. Thousands of times faster, the huge heavy flywheel now moves forward with almost unstoppable momentum. If someone were to ask you, “What was the one big push that caused the flywheel to go so fast?” How would you respond? Was it the first push? The second? The fiftieth? The hundredth? Of course not. It was all of the pushes added together in a cumulative effort applied in a consistent direction. Granted, some of the pushes may have been bigger than others, but each single heave represents only a small fraction of the entire effort expended upon the flywheel. Success won’t happen to you in one fell swoop. There will be no single defining action, solitary lucky break, or gut-wrenching revolution. Instead, success will result from a cumulative process…step by step…action by action…and turn by turn of the flywheel of your life.
In order to build momentum, you must increase the things that move you forward and decrease those that hold you back. In other words, it takes creating good habits while letting go those that don’t serve you. By its nature, momentum requires a lot of upfront push to get the flywheel moving. Here are some tips to help jumpstart it in your life:
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