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Success through Service


In my Bahá’í-inspired life coaching, many clients wonder about the role of service in their lives.  I often hear:  I don’t have time to add another thing to my already busy life.  So why is it so important?

In the Bahá’í Writings, ‘Abdul-Bahá tells us:

By assisting in the success of another servant in the Cause does one…lay the foundation for one’s own success and aspirations . . . (‘Abdul-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. 6, #6, p. 44)

I like to use this story, which I found in a book called “The Simple Truths of Service”, by Ken Blanchard and Barbara Glanz.  It illustrates how service can be as easy as a state of mind, and can be implemented into our life, in every action we take.

No one can make you serve customers well. That’s because great service is a choice. Years ago, my friend, Harvey Mackay, told me a wonderful story about a cab driver that proved this point. He was waiting in line for a ride at the airport. When a cab pulled up, the first thing Harvey noticed was that the taxi was polished to a bright shine. Smartly dressed in a white shirt, black tie, and freshly pressed black slacks, the cab driver jumped out and rounded the car to open the back passenger door for Harvey. He handed my friend a laminated card and said:  “I’m Wally, your driver. While I’m loading your bags in the trunk, I’d like you to read my mission statement.”

Taken aback, Harvey read the card. It said:

Wally’s Mission Statement:  To get my customers to their destination in the quickest, safest, and cheapest way possible in a friendly environment.

This blew Harvey away. Especially when he noticed that the inside of the cab matched the outside. Spotlessly clean!

As he slid behind the wheel, Wally said, “Would you like a cup of coffee? I have a thermos of regular and one of decaf.”

My friend said jokingly, “No, I’d prefer a soft drink.”

Wally smiled and said, “No problem. I have a cooler up front with regular and Diet Coke, water and orange juice.”

Almost stuttering, Harvey said, “I’ll take a Diet Coke”

Handing him his drink, Wally said, “If you’d like something to read, I have The Wall Street Journal, Time, Sports Illustratedand USA Today.”

As they were pulling away, Wally handed my friend another laminated card. “These are the stations I get and the music they play, if you’d like to listen to the radio.”

As if that weren’t enough, Wally told Harvey that he had the air conditioning on and asked if the temperature was comfortable for him. Then he advised Harvey of the best route to his destination for that time of the day. He also let him know that he’d be happy to chat and tell him about some of the sights, or, if Harvey preferred, to leave him with his own thoughts.

“Tell me, Wally,” my amazed friend asked the driver, “have you always served customers like this?”

Wally smiled into the rear view mirror. “No, not always. In fact, it’s only been in the last two years. My first five years driving, I spent most of my time complaining like all the rest of the cabbies do. Then I heard the personal growth guru, Wayne Dyer, on the radio one day. He had just written a book called You’ll See It When You Believe It. Dyer said that if you get up in the morning expecting to have a bad day, you’ll rarely disappoint yourself. He said, ‘Stop complaining! Differentiate yourself from your competition. Don’t be a duck. Be an eagle. Ducks quack and complain. Eagles soar above the crowd.’

“That hit me right between the eyes,” said Wally. “Dyer was really talking about me. I was always quacking and complaining, so I decided to change my attitude and become an eagle. I looked around at the other cabs and their drivers. The cabs were dirty, the drivers were unfriendly, and the customers were unhappy. So I decided to make some changes. I put in a few at a time. When my customers responded well, I did more.”

“I take it this has paid off for you,” Harvey said.

“It sure had,” Wally replied. “My first year as an eagle, I doubled my income from the previous year. This year I’ll probably quadruple it. You were lucky to get me today. I don’t sit at cabstands anymore. My customers call me for appointments on my cell phone or leave a message on my answering machine. If I can’t pick them up myself, I get a reliable cabbie friend to do it and I take a piece of the action.”

Can you see how this story demonstrates how serving others, helps us too?

I’d like to end with some quotes on service, from the Bahá’í Writings, which have helped my life coaching clients:

In the first, we learn that God sees our services and loves us for them:

I bear witness to the services thou hast rendered Me, and testify to the various troubles thou hast sustained for My sake. All the atoms of the earth declare My love for thee.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 309-310)

In the second, we see the power of service to change us into something much better than we could possibly imagine:

The power of God can entirely transmute our characters and make of us beings entirely unlike our previous selves. Through . . . ever-increasing service to His Faith, we can change ourselves.  (Shoghi Effendi, Spiritual Foundations, p. 17)

What are your experiences with being of service?  Post your comments here:

How to Overcome Failure


Most people make the mistake in thinking that, just because they failed at something, they should just move on. Or, if they failed it meant they were never meant to succeed at it. Wrong, wrong, wrong!  I help people deal with this every day in my Baha’i-inspired life coaching practice.

When you’re trying to accomplish something, failure is actually the best thing that can happen to you. Seriously! Do you think the light bulb was invented the first time around? No! In fact, Thomas Edison took thousands of tries to get it just right!

What about the first wheel or the telephone? Of course it takes multiple tries by multiple people to reach success, but the key point to remember is that you have to fail in order to know that you’ve succeeded.

Real Life Examples of Failure

  • Think of a toddler learning how to walk. Although they give a fair share of tantrums during the learning stages, they pull themselves up after each fall and try to walk again. Instinctively they’re teaching themselves how to perfect the movement all based on their past mistakes or failures. It’s a trial and error process!
  • People struggling with weight loss often feel like failures when they gain weight while dieting. Keeping a weight loss journal can help them track their progress and learn to recognize what triggers them to fail. Perhaps there are emotional or physical triggers that can be prevented. Learning from these mistakes will teach them how to combat those same problems in the future.

There is another benefit to failing: failure opens doors that will allow you to find out what you’re really destined to do.

The Bahai Writings teach:

Failures, tests, and trials, if we use them correctly, can become the means of purifying our spirit, strengthening our characters, and enable us to rise to greater heights of service.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 601)

We see failure opening doors in college all the time. Certainly you know at least one person who went to college with the intent of getting one degree and as they went through their course work, having their successes and failures, they discovered a new career interest and changed their major.

Think of a student who went to college to become a nurse but soon realized what they really enjoy is teaching. The whole reason they were going into nursing was to help educate people to improve their lives and they found the best way to do that is not as a nurse, but as a teacher. There’s nothing wrong with that!

As long as you’re able to learn from your “mistakes,” then they’re not mistakes at all – they are opportunities for success! There’s always something to learn from each and every situation and once you understand the lesson, it will make you a better person.

Failure makes you a stronger person. Imagine what it would be like if everything you did always went your way. Imagine that you were successful at everything you attempted your whole life and then one day it happened… you failed! You failed so badly that it caused you to lose everything. How in the world would you deal with that failure if you’ve never had to overcome an obstacle before?

From the Writings of the Bahá’í Faith we learn:

Every believer needs to remember that an essential characteristic of this physical world is that we are constantly faced with trials, tribulations, hardships and sufferings and that by overcoming them we achieve our moral and spiritual development; that we must seek to accomplish in the future what we may have failed to do in the past; that this is the way God tests His servants and we should look upon every failure or shortcoming as an opportunity to try again and to acquire a fuller consciousness of the Divine Will and purpose.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 366)

Failing allows you to become more resilient so you can always figure out a way to move forward.

The first wheel may have been square and it moved, but it was wobbly and eventually fell over, but the inventors never gave up! They began to figure out how to make it rounder so it would roll smoothly. You can do the same in your life! You can’t give up, you have to pick yourself up and figure out a way to roll forward, stronger than ever!

As we see in the Bahá’í Writings:

He strongly urges you not to dwell on yourself. Each one of us, if we look into our failures, is sure to feel unworthy and despondent, and this feeling only frustrates our constructive efforts and wastes time. The thing for us to focus on is the glory of the Cause and the Power of Bahá’u’lláh which can make of a mere drop a surging sea!  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 115)

How have you turned failure into a success?  Post your comments below.

Why Failure Is Really a Success


When something doesn’t go your way, what’s the first thought that pops into your head? Do you chastise yourself? Or do you reassure yourself that you are growing stronger and wiser with each challenge you face?

“. . . we must realize that everything which happens is due to some wisdom and that nothing happens without a reason.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 46.

In reality, it’s not the successes that make you a stronger, more successful person; it’s the failures.

This may sound odd, but each failure you have is actually a success. Why, you ask? Because it gives you the opportunity to improve, learn, and try again. Let’s take a look at a couple of the world’s greatest failures that lead to the some of the most ubiquitous inventions of our time.

  • Did you know that 3M’s greatest failure was inventing glue that won’t stick? That glue became the basis for the sticky backing on the “Post-It Note.”
  • Thomas Edison’s invention of the carbon microphone was a failure which contributed significantly to the commercial success of the telephone and remains in use today.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that each failure you encounter will land you with an immediate success. But it’s always a stepping-stone along the way.

“The more often the captain of a ship is in the tempest and difficult sailing the greater his knowledge be­comes. Therefore I am happy that you have had great tribulations and difficulties… Strange it is that I love you and still I am happy that you have sorrows.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. XIV, No. 2, p. 41.

You Can Only Appreciate Success After You’ve Failed

Thomas Edison had an incredibly positive attitude about failure. When he was questioned as to why so many of his experiments were failures, he responded by saying that he never had a failure in any of his experiments, rather, each experiment helped him discover another way that something would not work. In reality, sometimes the only way to know whether you’ve succeeded is to fail.

Learning How to Deal With Disappointment

Dealing with the disappointment of failure can be tough for adults as well as for children. But everyone experiences failure at some point in their lives and teaching our children how to deal with the disappointment is a critical life lesson.

Can you imagine a young adult, either a teen or college student, dealing with their first failures in the workplace? A tantrum at any age is not appealing, never mind from an adult who should know better.

Consider the very wise words of Winston Churchill who said, “Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” What did he mean exactly? Well here are three reasons why failing is a good thing:

1. Inspiration – Before you laugh, think about your childhood when you didn’t get something right the first time. What did you do? Tried again and again! Each time the thought in your head was, “I am going to get it right this time!” What better motivation do you need?

2. Humility – No one is perfect, sometimes we need to be reminded of that very fact! Can you imagine a world where no one ever failed and we all walked around thinking we were God’s gift to the world?
3. Learning – Success makes you feel good, but failing teaches you a lesson. Think back to the first time you swung a bat, learned to walk, or tried to eat with a fork. Did you do it right the first time? Of course not. Did you figure out with each failure what you were doing wrong? Well if you can swing a bat today, walk and eat with a fork then I guess you did!

Thus you might look upon your own difficulties in the path of service. They are the means of your spirit growing and developing. You will suddenly find that you have conquered many of the prob­lems which upset you, and then you will
wonder why they should have troubled you at all.
Shoghi Effendi, Living the Life, pp. 35-36.

Failure brings positive change and success to those who are resilient. How has failure led to success in your life? Post your comments here.