The story has stuck with me for days. Yet, ironically, for the life of me I cannot recall where I heard it. A father and young boy were walking along a pathway, when they came across a large tree trunk that had fallen across the way. The father encouraged the boy to go move the tree, to which the son replied he wasn’t strong enough.
“Yes you are,” said the dad. “If you use all your strength, I know you can do it.” So the boy summoned all he had and, against the mighty forces of nature, he tried. And tried. And tried again. Finally, hanging his head, he went back to admit to his father that he just couldn’t do it.
“Did you use all your strength?” The man asked. The boy nodded he had. “No, actually son, no you didn’t,” the father said. And as the boy looked up, puzzled, the Dad bent down to to his son’s level. “You didn’t use me.”
I have carried this story with me constantly since hearing it. It follows me as I drive or cook or work.
I try hard to be a good Dad, consultant, Website designer, dog owner, Leafs fan, guy just trying to be the man God wants me to be. You work hard to be all the things that you are. Yet for both of us, there are days when we use every ounce and sinew within us, but we’re just not able to move that tree.
Suddenly I’m realizing the problem is not that we can’t. It’s that we’re not using all our strength.
Sure, there’s pride in getting something done all on our own, but we never see a victorious athlete or Oscar winner shouting out gleefully that she got there all by herself. She has so many people to thank that the orchestra starts to play and the audience is clapping and two girls in glittery dresses are pulling her away from the mic, and she’s stretching her neck, leaning back and calling, still tumbling out names upon more names.
Gretzky and Tiger are two of the greatest athletes who ever lived, but they still talk about how they depended on their coaches. They started by spending thousands of hours learning from their Dads, and then as they got older and better they tracked down the best pros to help them face whatever their particular challenges were at any given time. They’ll tell you their successes were not due to their talents so much as their truly understanding where all their strengths lay.
Meanwhile, look at me. Look at you. The fact is, sometimes we’ve messed up.
Sometimes we’ve failed.
Sometimes we just weren’t as good as we wanted so, so, so much to be.
But virtually never — no matter how much we thought we had — did we actually, truly, ever try something with all our strength.
The amazing news is that maybe the secret is just lying right there.
Maybe it’s time we stopped using all our strength… and started using all our strength.