A Tale of Remarkable Character

Robert Terson

One of my favorite movies is the 1981 Oscar-winning Chariots of Fire. It tells the story of two great English Olympic runners who competed in the 1924 Paris Olympic Games—Harold Abrahams, portrayed by Ben Cross, and Eric Liddell, portrayed by the late Ian Charleson. The line, “Bring me my chariot of fire,” from the William Blake poem adapted into the British hymn “Jerusalem”, inspired the film’s title; the hymn can be heard at the end of the movie. The original phrase “chariot(s) of fire” is from the Bible.

Harold Abrahams was a Jew who used his ability to run as a means to combat anti-Semitism, which was a great deal more prevalent in the early part of the 20th Century than it is today (not to say it’s gone—I recently read an article on present-day Hungarian anti-Semitism that raised the hairs on the back of my neck); Eric Liddell was a deeply religious Scottish Christian who ran to glorify God. They were as different as night is to day, and yet they both were men of high principles who possessed great character, and both heroically stood their ground when challenged and pressured by powerful external forces. If you’ve never seen the film, I can’t urge you enough to rent it; you’re in for a treat!

I personally identified with the character of Harold Abrahams for a number of reasons that I need not go into, but it was Eric Liddell whom I admired the most and who had a mighty influence on me. When you watch the film, ask yourself, which of the two men you admire the most and why. I’d love to hear your choices.

One of my favorite quotes—one of my own—is “Every adversity is an opportunity to display character.” True character is, above all else, what we all should be striving for. It affects our business life, relationships, every aspect of our existence. So, let me ask you, Are you a man or woman of great character? Take a moment to put your own character, or lack thereof, under a microscope; what do you see?

Imagine if you will, that you’ve passed away and your spirit is attending your funeral. Not only do you get to hear the eulogies being publicly spoken, you get to listen in on the private conversations going on, as well. You even get to hear the private thoughts of those closest to you—your family and friends—and those whom you did business with. What do you want them to be saying, thinking about you? Be brutally honest with yourself—What are you hearing?

Character, my friends; be a man or woman of great character. Nothing else is as important. And you know what—today is the first day of the rest of your life.

 

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