Three Keys to Success: Persistence, Advice and Prayer

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26 Sep 2019

I would like to tell you something about yourself.

There is an area of your life that you have likely given up hope on. Perhaps you’ve given up on moving to Israel, getting married, becoming more observant, or any other goal. You’ve tried, you’ve failed and you’ve given up; you’ve thrown in the towel.

But there’s a very simple reason you should never throw in the towel: It’s not your towel to throw in. 

If success in life was solely dependent on us, we should have given up a long time ago. But success depends on God and God can do anything!

To give up on an area of your life is to make the same mistake the Jews in the desert made when they despaired after hearing the report of the spies (Numbers 13:1). Their mistake was that it wasn’t them who was going to fight the mighty Canaanites. It was God! God was going to fight their battles. 

God will fight your battles too, but if you don’t show up to the battlefield, there will be no one for God to fight for. We must persevere in addressing our challenges, confident that at the right time and in the right way, God will help us. 

When it comes to overcoming challenges and achieving goals, three keys to success are: Being persistent, asking for advice and praying. 

About persistence, King Solomon writes in Proverbs (24:16), “Even if a righteous person falls seven times, he will get up…” The Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic movement, explained that it is the rising from every fall which enables a person to become righteous. We too can become righteous and successful, if we make this one commitment to ourselves: “I will get up after every setback.”

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov said (Likutey Moharan II 78): “There is no despair in the world at all!”

If you have despaired about something, that reaction is not based on reality, because despair does not exist in the world; it only exists in your imagination. Get it out of your head, by keeping your focus on the next step you will take to address a challenge. 

No matter how bleak things look, there is someone who was in an even worse position than you, who didn’t give up and was successful. If God can help them, He can help you too.

But what if you tried a number of times, without success?

This is where the second key, of asking advice comes in. They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If you tried one method, and it didn’t work, try something else. Speak to someone wise with life experience. If their advice does not resonate with you, ask someone else. Once you find the right person for you, choose with them an attainable goal and break it down into small achievable steps. Check in with them periodically to assess your progress and to see if any changes are needed. In addition to support from a mentor, enlist support from friends and family by sharing your goals with those who will encourage you.

This January 1st, 2020, with God’s help, will be the Siyum Hashas, the celebration of the completion of learning the Talmud. If one learns a full page each day, it takes around seven and a half years to study the entire Talmud. Many who thought they could never finish the entire Talmud have done it. How? Through determination, peer support and breaking down a monumental goal into daily manageable steps. Learn from them and do the same for the goals in your life. 

To supercharge our efforts to overcome challenges and achieve our goals, we have to pray, which is the third and most important of the three keys to success. 

Moses prayed to God to be able to enter into the Land of Israel. The word Moses used to describe his prayers to God, was “Vaeschanan” “and I beseeched (Deuteronomy 3:23).” The Sages point out that the numerical value of that word is 515, the number of prayers Moses made. Eventually God told him to stop praying. If Moses would have continued to pray, God would have answered his prayers, and God had His reasons why He did not want Moses to enter the Land of Israel. 

With prayer, we must be persistent and patient, waiting for God to answer us at the right time and in the right way. In our society, we are used to instant gratification and some expect to see immediate results from their prayers. But many worthwhile goals take years before success is achieved. While we hope that our prayers will be answered swiftly, sometimes, like when praying for a spouse, it can take years before we see the fruits of our prayers.

Rebbe Nachman writes that our prayers, bit by bit, add up to creating a spiritual construct. Once that spiritual edifice is complete, then we will see the fruits of our prayers (Likutey Moharan 2). With each prayer, we are adding another building block to a palace that is being constructed with our prayers. It takes time to build a palace before it is inhabitable, especially a magnificent one. Do not give up on your prayers while your palace is still in the process of being built.

Pair your prayer with acts of kindness. When we show God that we are already using His gifts to help others, we make a compelling case for Him to shower us with even greater blessings.

Think of a struggle in your life and apply these three keys: Be persistent, ask for advice, and pray. 

This High Holiday season, no matter how many times in the past you have failed to improve, try again. Choose one specific action you will take to bring you closer to God. Perhaps it will be saying each day a chapter of Psalms (there are a number of great translations available). Or opening up a Torah book every day, even if only for five to ten minutes, or listening to an inspirational lecture at least once a week. Consider, is there an area of observance you can strengthen, or someone you have wronged who you can ask for forgiveness?

They say that as an inventor, Thomas Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb before he succeeded. When asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

You want to light up your life? Then refuse to give up. Keep trying, even if it takes you a thousand times to succeed.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.