“How bad do you want it? Not bad enough.” Don Henley
Does fate brings us where we are? Is everything just coincidence?
An interesting statement arises from this week’s Torah portion. King Balak is afraid that the Jews, while on their way to Israel, will make war and defeat his people. So, he asks Bilaam, a sorcerer, to curse the Jews. Balak sends a delegation to make this request. Bilaam asks G-d and is told, “No, you can’t curse the Jews.” Balak sends another delegation of greater prestige, and G-d agrees to let Billam go as it is clear this is what Bilaam wants. There is much that can be discussed regarding this scene and the portion itself. One point the sages gathered from this exchange is that G-d leads us in the way we want to go.
I’ve been wondering what that really means. If I really want to win the lottery, will G-d make it happen? I want a date with Sofia Vergara (if I weren’t not happily married, of course), so will G-d set us up? Maybe, this wanting thing has to be more personal. I want to play third base for the Phillies. How ’bout it? Is G-d going to put me on the team?
Many of us probably realize these situations — while certainly in G-d’s capacity — are far-fetched. The sages probably did not mean this when they were talking about the wanting thing. Okay, so no date with Sofia.
Then what did they mean? I brought this issue up the other day with my wife. And we both agreed that a person needs to put in their effort. They can’t just sit back and say “I want to play third base for a professional baseball team.” They must practice for hours over years and years. Maybe that magic number of hours it takes to attain greatness is 10,000 hours, as Malcolm Gladwell said in his book Outliers, which is based on a study by Anders Ericsson.
Doing something just over 416 days 24 hours of a day (I did the math) would certainly quantify as wanting something. Yet are you telling me that everyone who ever wanted something and achieved it put in that sort of time? I highly doubt it. So, maybe effort, while significant, is just part of the equation.
It has often been said that Michael Jordan sees everything as a competition and wants to win every time. While that doesn’t sound like someone I would want to be around, maybe it takes that kind of intensity to succeed. You have to want something and not let anything get in your way. I’m certain that kind of singular focus could only enhance your potential to achieve what you want. Yet, I still question if that is enough. Have you ever seen commercials for American Idol? Potential contestants are left crying when they are told they are not going to Hollywood. Clearly, they desperately wanted to be part of (and win) the competition to be America’s next idol.
Can you want for someone else? I want so very badly for my boys, BR and SJ, to achieve great things, to be happy, to be decent and to live long, fulfilling and meaningful lives. I am sure I am not the only parent who wants such things for his/her children. Of course, some parents see this want go fulfilled and others do not.
Ultimately, I do not have the ‘answer’ to this. However, I would like to share some thoughts. First, it is important to be clear on what you want. Being wishy washy is okay for choosing your favorite ice cream flavor, but not achievement. Second, I think one must be willing to put in the time to achieve his/her want. Lastly, having some form of support — whether it is family, friends, mentors or colleagues — is imperative to help one deal with and overcome the inevitable bumps in the road.
Finally, I do believe that G-d does lead us in some form or fashion to where we want to go. One question you have to ask yourself if you have not attained something you want is: How bad do you want it? Maybe, the answer is not bad enough.