Success Lesson: Historical Perspective By Jim Stovall

Jim StovallIf the name Edward R. Murrow is not familiar to you, you need to talk with your parents or grandparents, and they will likely tell you that he was among the first, and certainly most significant, television news reporters of all time.

If you were to poll the news industry to determine the most influential news person of the 20th century, the top response would likely be Edward R. Murrow. He became famous for his reports from London during World War II.

It is difficult for those of us who did not experience that war or live during that time to understand the magnitude of the worldwide conflict and the peril that everyone faced. The fate of the free world truly hung in the balance for several years.

Murrow had a ringside seat overlooking the world’s stage during those critical years. Later in his life, he was quoted as saying, “Difficulty is the excuse history will never accept.” This statement is particularly impactful when you understand who said it and what historical perspective Edward R. Murrow held.

Those of us who became aware of world affairs and geopolitical conflicts during the late 20th century or even the beginning of the new millennium, got a glimpse of the World War II struggle through the movie Saving Private Ryan.

As a proud author and movie-maker myself, I would have to admit that even a great film such as Saving Private Ryan is a poor substitute for the perspective of actually being in that time and place. That movie still provides us with a limited understanding of the difficulty people at the front and back home faced during World War II.

The fact that Edward R. Murrow could dismiss difficulty as an excuse is even more significant as we understand the difficulty he saw and showed to the world through his words and images.

While difficulty faced and overcome may make the victory sweeter, difficulty as an excuse is not more tolerable. All of us have mountains to climb and challenges to face. I’m a great believer in the order of things in our world that seems to indicate that you and I will never be given a challenge or a difficulty we do not have the capacity to overcome.

I’m reminded of the impassioned speeches Sir Edmund Hillary made after his initial failed attempt to climb Mt. Everest. He spoke to audiences around the world while standing in front of a huge mural of the world’s tallest mountain.

He explained the difficulty they had faced on their first attempt to climb Mt. Everest and why they had initially failed. Then at the end of his speech, Hillary would actually turn toward the image of Mt. Everest and speak to it saying, “We will, inevitably, succeed because you can’t get any bigger, and I can.”

I would never discount or minimize the difficulties that anyone faces. I would simply conclude if we could focus on our growth and intensity instead of the magnitude of the problem, we will prevail.

As you go through your day today, see difficulties as an opportunity and challenges as a springboard to success.

Today’s the day!
Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network, as well as a published author of many books including The Ultimate Gift. He is also a columnist and motivational speaker. He may be reached by e-mail at or by visiting

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