John McKay, of the NFL, tells a story illustrating the supreme confidence of University
of Alabama football coach Bear Bryant: "We were out shooting ducks, and finally,
after about three hours, here comes one lonely duck. The Bear fires. And that duck is
still flying today. But Bear watched the duck flap away, looked at me and said, 'John, you
are witnessing a genuine miracle. There flies a dead duck!'"
John McKay, A Coach's Story.
The American painter, John Sargent, once painted a panel of roses that was highly
praised by critics. It was a small picture, but it approached perfection. Although offered
a high price for it on many occasions, Sargent refused to sell it. He considered it his
best work and was very proud of it. Whenever he was deeply discouraged and doubtful of his
abilities as an artist, he would look at it and remind himself, "I painted
that." Then his confidence and ability would come back to him.
Bits & Pieces,
September 19, 1991, p. 9.
James Dobson tells of a friend of his during their days in medical school. One day this
man was walking across campus laden with books and briefcase. He passed by a fast food
stand, and ordered something to eat and a milkshake to wash it down. He balanced it all on
top of his briefcase and began looking for an empty table at which to sit. While looking,
the milkshake got the better of him, and he bent down without looking in order to take a
sip from the straw. The straw missed his mouth and ended up in his nose.
not at a loss, he thought that if he straightened up the straw would stay in the shake.
But when he lifted his head, the straw came out of the shake and remained in his nose,
dripping the milkshake down the front of his suit. In a moment, all his confidence
About halfway through a PBS program on the Library of Congress, Dr. Daniel
the Librarian of Congress, brought out a little blue box from a small closet that once
held the library's rarities. The label on the box read: "Contents of the president's
pockets on the night of April 14, 1865. Since that was the fateful night Abraham Lincoln
was assassinated, every viewer's attention was seized. Boorstin then proceeded to remove
the items in the small container and display them on camera. There were five things in the
A handkerchief, embroidered "A. Lincoln"
A country boy's pen knife
A spectacles case repaired with string
A purse containing a $5 bill--Confederate money(!)
Some old and worn newspaper clippings
"The clippings," said Boorstin, "were concerned with the great deeds of
Abraham Lincoln. And one of them actually reports a speech by John Bright which says that
Abraham Lincoln is "one of the greatest men of all times." Today that's common
knowledge. The world now knows that British statesman John Bright was right in his
assessment of Lincoln, but in 1865 millions shared quite a contrary opinion. The
President's critics were fierce and many. His was a lonely agony that reflected the
suffering and turmoil of his country ripped to shreds by hatred and a cruel, costly war.
There is something touchingly pathetic in the mental picture of this great leader seeking
solace and self-assurance from a few old newspaper clippings as he reads them under the
flickering flame of a candle all alone in the Oval Office. Remember this: Loneliness
stalks where the buck stops.
Swindoll, The Quest For Character, Multnomah, p. 62-3.
One problem I remember was a time when our son Bob broke our trust and lied to his
mother and me. He was still young, dating Linda, his wife-to-be, and was only allowed to
see her on certain nights. Well, one night he wanted to see her without permission and
told us he was at his friend's house. When we found out the truth, there was a real scene
between us. He had violated our trust; it was like a crack in a fine cup that marred its
appearance. In the confrontation, I smashed a fine English tea cup on the floor and told
Bob that to restore our trust would be like gluing that cup back together again. He said,
"I don't know if I can do that." And I said, "Well, that's how hard it is
to build confidence and trust again." The outcome was that Bob spent literally weeks
carefully gluing the pieces together until he finished. He learned a very important
Robert H. Schuller, in Homemade, January 1985.
Frank Lloyd Wright is among the most innovative architects this county ever produced.
But his fame wasn't limited to the United States. About 70 years ago, Japan asked Wright
to design a hotel for Tokyo that would be capable of surviving an earthquake. When the
architect visited Japan to see where the Imperial Hotel was to be built, he was appalled
to find only about eight feet of earth on the site. Beneath that was 60 feet of soft mud
that slipped and shook like jelly. Every test hole he dug filled up immediately with
water. A lesser man probably would have given up right there. But not Frank Lloyd Wright.
Since the hotel was going to rest on fluid ground, Wright decided to build it like a ship.
Instead of trying to keep the structure from moving during a quake, he incorporated
features that would allow the hotel to ride out the shock without damage. Supports were
sunk into the soft mud, and sections of the foundation were cantilevered from the
supports. The rooms were built in sections like a train and hinged together. Water pipes
and electric lines, usually the first to shear off in an earthquake, were hung in vertical
shafts where they could sway freely if necessary. Wright knew that the major cause of
destruction after an earthquake was fire, because water lines are apt to be broken in the
ground and there is no way to put the fire out. So he insisted on a large outdoor pool in
the courtyard of his hotel, "just in case."
On September 1, 1923, Tokyo had the greatest earthquake in its history. There were
fires all over the city, and 140,000 people died. Back in the U.S., news reports were slow
coming in. One newspaper wanted to print the story that the Imperial Hotel had been
destroyed, as rumor had it. But when a reporter called Frank Lloyd Wright, he said that
they could print the story if they wished, but they would only have to retract it later.
He knew the hotel would not collapse.
Shortly afterward, Wright got a telegram from Japan. The Imperial Hotel was completely
undamaged. Not only that -- it had provided a home for hundreds of people. And when fires
that raged all around the hotel threatened to spread, bucket brigades kept the structure
wetted down with water from the hotel's pool. The Imperial Hotel isn't there anymore. It
was finally torn down in the 1960s to be replaced by a more modern structure.
Bits & Pieces, January 7, 1993, pp. 11-14.
Over confidence, coupled with negligence, can lead to sad consequences. This is the
case when a person is so sure of himself that he becomes careless about little things that
may pose a threat. I'm thinking, for example, of a stuntman named Bobby Leach. In July,
1911, he went over Niagara Falls in a specially designed steel drum and lived to tell
about it. Although he suffered minor injuries, he survived because he recognized the
tremendous dangers involved in the feat, and because he had done everything he could to
protect himself from harm.
Several years after that incident, while skipping down the street in New Zealand, Bobby
Leach slipped on an orange peeling, fell, and badly fractured his leg. He was taken to a
hospital where he later died of complications from that fall. He received a greater injury
walking down the street than he sustained in going over Niagara. He was not prepared for
danger in what he assumed to be a safe situation.