Sermon Illustrations > Success > Set Your Standards High

Set Your Standards High

Laurence Shames, in the New York Times, quoted in Feb., 1990, Reader's Digest

John Milton was a failure. In writing Paradise Lost, his aim was to "justify the ways of God to men." Inevitably, he fell short and wrote only a monumental poem. Beethoven, whose music was conceived to transcend fate, was a failure, as was Socrates, whose ambition was to make people happy by making them reasonable and just. The surest, noblest way to fail is to set one's standards titanically high. The flip side of that proposition also seems true. The surest way to succeed is to keep one's striving low.

Many people, by external standards, will be "successes." They will own homes, eat in better restaurants, dress well and, in some instances, perform socially useful work. Yet fewer people are putting themselves on the line, making as much of their minds and talents as they might. Frequently, success is what people settle for when they can't think of something noble enough to be worth failing at.