Hard Work Pays Off

Hard Work Pays Off

From Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul

Hard Work Pays Off

The road to happiness lies in two simple principles:

find out what it is that interests you and that you can do well,

and when you find it, put your whole soul into it—

every bit of energy and ambition and natural ability you have.

John D. Rockefeller III

As a young boy, I grew up with my eight siblings in a tin-roofed shack in Summerfield, Louisiana. I didn’t see my circumstance as an obstacle, even though we didn’t even have a real toilet in the house. I saw my life more as a card that had been dealt to me and I tried to make the most of it.

I was the youngest of five boys and also had four sisters who had to pull together and take care of each other. Dad wasn’t around, so I never knew him well. He committed suicide when I was three years old, leaving Mom with the job of raising and providing for nine kids. She worked at a ON ATTITUDE AND PERSPECTIVE sawmill running a forklift for fifty dollars a week and had another job at a poultry plant. She was a very hard worker, and in order to make ends meet, she hardly ever rested.

My mom believed in doing all she could do to take care of her responsibilities, so no matter what, she never asked for a handout. You can imagine; we kids didn’t get what we wanted, but we always got the things we needed. With my mom as my example, I learned that hard work is the best way to get what you want.

While growing up, I was surrounded with temptations to do negative things like drugs, alcohol and all that. I chose not to go there. Even as a little boy, I knew I was going to be successful. Some people take that to be cocky or conceited, but I wasn’t going to let anybody tell me that I couldn’t do whatever I set out to do.

Of course, I dreamed about what I wanted to be when I grew up. At first, I wanted be a state trooper, then I wanted to be in the Special Forces. After awhile, I decided that I wanted to drive eighteen-wheelers. There was even a period of time that I wanted to be in construction. I wanted to play football in high school; in fact, I still do. But regardless of what I chose, I wanted to make my brothers, sisters and mom proud of me—not only by being successful in what I chose to do, but also as a person who could be looked up to for the right reasons.

Surprising as it might seem, basketball wasn’t in my plans. One day, my mom cut a rim off an old water barrel and then held it up for me to throw an old rubber ball through. By junior high, I started playing basketball on a team. I loved to compete. There was a positive high I got by going out and playing against other people and working hard to win. For me, it paid off. I just let my success in basketball take its course but I always put the effort in, every day.

No matter what I’ve done, some people wait for my downfall, saying, “Karl Malone can’t do it.” Instead of letting people like that get to me, they are actually my motivation and I continue to prove them wrong every single day. I try to do the best job I can in a positive way on and off the court. I realize that no matter what I’m dealing with, there’s somebody else out there who has it a little bit worse off. I’ve been there. And I know that without continued hard work, I could be there again.

I am grateful for the life I’ve enjoyed as a basketball star. But when I see these shirts that say “Basketball is life,” I think Yeah, right! It is not life. It can be exciting. But the important thing about basketball is that it gives me a way to do good things for others as I move through this journey called life.

Success is really about choosing right from wrong, making a positive contribution to the world around you and valuing the things that are really important—like family and friends.

While everyone else was looking to popular athletes, actors and musicians as positive role models, my mom was my inspiration, and she continues to be all these years later. She taught me that hard work never killed anybody. My mom is my hero. She, my family and friends bring me more joy than anything else in life does.

At the end of my life, I don’t want to be remembered as the kind of person who just sat on his rear end and said, “I’ve made it.” I don’t ever want to have to say that I didn’t give it everything that I’ve got. Sure there are days that I don’t feel like working hard . . . but I do it anyway, ’cause that’s who I am.

Karl Malone

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