The Underdogs

Rabbi Lazer Brody


A person with no goal or destination in life simply won't go anywhere. Many people just tread water, staying in the same place for years. But like water, when a person doesn't flow, he or she stagnates.
One word differentiates between a person who makes it up the mountain and someone else who stays at the bottom – desire.
Each one of us has had some situation in life where we've said to ourselves, "I must succeed". The stronger our desire, the more we saw what we were capable of doing. It doesn't have to be a life-and-death situation; it can be a football game or a race that we badly wanted to win. How many times do you see an athlete make a fantastic play in a championship game? You don't see such fabulous performances in practice games, because the player isn't playing with the same motivation.
Motivation is desire, and desire is strength. When we're aware of our own strengths, we become so much more effective. So, in order to know where we're going, we must first know where we are. “Where we are” means that we recognize our strengths and our weaknesses. Once we do, even our weaknesses are an asset. For example, if a person is only 5'5” and weighs 130 pounds, then he probably won't succeed in reaching the NBA or the NFL as a professional basketball or football player. Yet, his lack of brawn will certainly not be a drawback in many other sports, such as long-distance running or gymnastics. One's so-called “weaknesses” are not weaknesses at all, but merely navigational aids to channel a person in the right direction.
A person is not limited by his or her so-called weaknesses. Lack of motivation and desire are what straps a person, not lack of intellectual or physical prowess. We'll soon see why.
Knowing who you are means also that you know where you are. We learned in the first chapter that the real “me” is the soul; one's desire is the most important indication of inner strength. Therefore, knowing where we are means that we honestly assess our desire and motivation to accomplish anything we've set out to do. Without knowing where we are, we can't know which direction to take in order to reach the top of our personal mountain.
Suppose your destination is Kansas City, but you have no idea whether you're in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas or Minneapolis. Whereas a New Yorker must travel westward to reach Kansas City, someone from Los Angeles must travel eastward. A person from Dallas would have to go north, whereas his counterpart in Minneapolis would have to go south. So without knowing where you are, you can't possibly know which direction to pursue. No wonder so many people are totally lost in life.
Life is exactly like climbing a mountain; we begin at the bottom, and gradually work our way up in the direction of the "peak", our goals and aspirations. Without strong desire to achieve those goals and aspirations, a person goes nowhere.
Lack of desire and motivation leads to laziness and negative emotions. You'll never see a person with strong motivation who is sad and depressed. Therefore, the best teachers, coaches, commanders and employers are the ones who are capable of instilling desire and motivation in the hearts of those whom they are responsible for.
The various trails up different parts of a mountain resemble life's options – the daily choices a person must make that influence his or her entire future.
A hiker without a map, or with a map written in a foreign language that he or she doesn't understand, can't possibly reach a destination. By the same token, a person devoid of desire and motivation lacks direction, suffers needlessly, and never knows which path to take in life. When you're lost, you obviously can't reach your destination. 
Living in this world without desire and motivation is like hiking up a mountain path on a moonless night without a flashlight. Imagine stepping in a crevice, incurring a serious injury, and then discovering that you had a flashlight in your backpack. What a shame! If you'd have known that you had a flashlight – and how to turn it on – you'd have safely navigated your way up the mountain.
The material world is analogous to a mountain. The course of our lives is a like the path to the top. Even though life is frequently “dark” with difficulties, our flashlight is our desire and motivation, which illuminate our way. Trying to get through life without the benefit of desire makes for an unbearable existence. Therefore, the key to living a physically and mentally healthful life, and a meaningful one as well, is having strong desire and motivation.
Life devoid of desire resembles a tourist who can't read a map or understand the language of the local directional signs – a lost soul in every sense of the word. It's truly frightening to think about the number of people who lack motivation, desire and direction in life, traveling down random roads and making major decisions in life by chance or instinct.
When an airplane flies through thick storm clouds, it feels constant turbulence. Flying is both difficult and dangerous, and the passengers – belted in their seats, jolted to and fro, and nauseated from the falling sensation in their stomach – have difficulty performing the simplest of tasks. Suddenly, the plane rises above the clouds to the clear blue sky and the shining sun. The passengers gaze out of the window, and the gray mattress of cloudy turbulence is beneath them. The plane levels off at cruising speed and altitude, and the passengers feel calm and steady like they're sitting in their living room. They now reassume their normal mode of functioning.
Motivation and desire take a person above the cloudy turbulence of basic survival in a non-congenial world. Without them, hardship is unbearable. With them, we weather the greatest challenges with strength and with a smile.
Not everyone has twenty-inch biceps, a 135 IQ or a beauty-queen face and figure. Yet, natural talent does not determine success. The underdogs who beat the odds are the ones with the strongest desire and motivation.
Natural talent is like an escalator. But motivation and desire are liking running up a stairway, two stairs at a time. Even without the advantage of the escalator, the person who runs up the stairs will make it faster to the top. His life isn't as easy as the person riding the escalator, but ultimately, he's the one who succeeds.