In his inspiring last lecture Randy Pausch said that “brick walls are there for a reason”. They are there “to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.”
Indeed, when observed, successful people are all characterized by perseverance – the ability to steadily persist in a course of action spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement. Yet what if a brick wall is so thick that you risk smashing your hand trying to break it?
Reinhold Niebuhr’ Serenity Prayer is worth mentioning here. It starts as follows:
“God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”
To paraphrase, perhaps some things are not meant to be changed. While most brick walls are there test our will of power, others may serve as sign-posts of “things-to-be”. This has nothing to do within giving up. Giving up is yielding to challenges when you do have energy to face and overcome them. Accepting the things you cannot change is admitting humbly that man is not omnipotent, while the Universe is.
Sometimes the line between the two approaches may seem to thin. To put it in other words, if we don’t like something, we can either change it or, if we can’t change it, change our attitude. So we all need brick walls on the way. And we all have them. It’s ultimately about our own choices and about how badly we want something. Still, even if it God’s will to keep a brick wall in its place, we can still attempt to break it, which in itself can be a rewarding and learning experience.
To end with a quote from McMurphy brilliantly played by Jack Nicholson in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”: “But I tried, didn’t I? Goddamnit, at least I did that.”