Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev commented, “If what you have done yesterday still looks big to you, you haven’t done much today.”
Someone once told me that you can tell when people are getting old: Their eyes start shifting around to the back of their heads . . . and they get stuck looking backward at yesterday. It’s a bit like trying to drive down the highway while looking in the rear view mirror. It might help you see where you’ve been, but it doesn’t help you get where you’re going!
American baseball legend George Herman Ruth, best known as Babe Ruth, understood that past accomplishments don’t guarantee future success. As an American League baseball player for twenty-two seasons, including seven seasons with the Boston Red Sox, Ruth helped the New York Yankees win seven pennants and four World Series titles. (Ruth won a total of seven World Series championships before retiring.) Babe Ruth became one of the first five players to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. During his career, he set the record for home runs (714) and runs batted in (2,213). He was also home-run champion for twelve years.
But Babe Ruth never allowed his incredible successes as a home-run champion to get in the way of his present and future goals. To his great credit, Ruth was able to maintain his focus on each game he was playing, and with true insight, he reminded the world that “yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games.” It’s nearly impossible to have a better tomorrow if you’re stuck on yesterday.
What each of us has accomplished in the past is a very strong indicator of what we’re capable of doing in the future. Through our past accomplishments, our actions have indeed spoken louder than our words.
Your past accomplishments should be recognized and applauded. You dreamed and visualized what you wanted to accomplish, you identified what you valued most, and then you brought your energies to bear on what you perceived would fill a specific need and make other people better off.
At your time and place in history, you began to fantasize: You dared to dream. You asked yourself, “What if . . .?” Then you began to crystalize: You engaged in dream screening, calculating what it would cost you to accomplish your dream. You became determined and specific. Next, you began to actually visualize that dream: You began to see yourself as having already achieved it. Your dream became such a reality to you that your subconscious mind began to work out the details of accomplishing it.
But that future accomplishment needed to be reinforced, so you began to verbalize the dream to yourself and others. You had to become vulnerable and accountable in order to see your precious dream come to fruition. You depended on that verbal affirmation to maintain your focus and strengthen your confidence. You may even have quoted King Solomon’s observation: “As [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7, nkjv). The dream was working!
All that was left was to actually see your dream materialize: You saw your plans for the accomplishment of your desired goal become reality. The pathway for your accomplishment had gone over, under, and around all the obstacles and impediments that could have become your tombstone. Now they have wonderfully become your touchstone. As your goal was attained, a feeling of fulfillment and worthiness developed. You might even have shouted, “Wow! Just look at what I accomplished!”
You’re to be congratulated and recognized for your success! However, you now stand at one of the scariest and most fragile points in your life. Accomplishments should prove to be not a destination but a journey. Nothing can fail like success, and nothing can be as miserably defeated as yesterday’s spectacular accomplishments, if your success makes you lose your focus.
We all must learn from yesterday’s accomplishments, gain from the confidence acquired, and press on to greet the opportunities of tomorrow. But we must not stop. The temptation will always be to allow yesterday’s triumphs to rob us of today’s opportunity and creativity.
I vividly recall the euphoric feeling I got as Project C.U.R.E. shipped its first million dollars’ worth of donated medical goods to the needy country of Brazil in the late 1980s. There was an overwhelming temptation to just settle into Brazil and rejoice in the success. That would have been undeniably good . . . but it wouldn’t have been best, or smart. We could have gotten stuck on yesterday—and stuck on stupid.
It wasn’t long before other Latin American and South American countries came asking for our help. They wanted desperately needed medical goods as well. I remember considering the choices: We could sit and enjoy the beauty of the mighty oak tree that had grown from yesterday’s accomplishments—the life-changing contribution to the nation of Brazil—or we could take our newly gained knowledge and confidence and help create a mighty forest for the future by getting busy and planting precious acorns today.
I chose to plant for the future, and today Project C.U.R.E. is shipping medical goods to more than 130 different countries, bringing help and hope to thousands of needy people around the world. Even to this day, we’re striving to never get stuck on yesterday. We want to fulfill today’s goals and embrace tomorrow’s opportunities, remembering that “if what you have done yesterday still looks big to you, you haven’t done much today.”