No one wants to live a life of mediocrity or failure and therefore go through life desperately seeking success. Yet, for many success seems to be ever-moving and unreachable goal post. What is the secret to true and lasting success? The life of Jacob, holds the secret to true and lasting success.
Jacob lived a life of struggle. He grew up in the shadow of his older brother Esau. Based on the pecking order of his family Jacob was destined to be second-best and doomed to a life of mediocrity. Although Jacob fought to be heard and recognized, somehow everything he touched seemed to turn bad.
At the age of 63, when it seems that he could stand it no longer, his sympathetic mother Rebecca heard that Isaac was going to give the coveted first-born blessings to Esau, rather than to Jacob. Together they devised a plan for Jacob to take the blessings instead. This, in the end, backfired spectacularly and after spending 14 years in exile hiding from Esau, finally at that age of 77 years old he arrived in Charan still a bachelor and penniless. His life up till that moment seemed to have been an complete and disastrous failure. He had struggled to get ahead, he was not willing to accept his fate, he constantly strove for excellence and greatness–yet nothing had worked, he was still a prodigious underachiever.
This is what rock bottom must feel like. When it seems that it can’t get any worse. When everything that could possibly go wrong actually went wrong. The moment when all of our mistakes seem to have caught up with us and we have lost virtually everything. This is what Jacob must have felt like when he left Bear Shava and was traveling to Charan to be with his uncle Laben. On the run from Esau his brother, he arrived in Charan with nothing.
On the way, however, something strange happened. Jacob lay down to sleep and had a dream of a ladder that reached from the ground to the heavens and divine angels were ascending and descending on the ladder. Then he had a vision of God who told him, “I am with you, and I will guard you wherever you go, and I will restore you to this land, for I will not forsake you until I have done what I have spoken concerning you” (Genesis 28:15).
From that moment onwards he started to see success. He found a wife, fathered twelve children and became the founding patriarch of one of the most successful people ever to walk this planet: the Jews. He amassed tremendous wealth and his fame and influence grew exponentially. Jacob is seen as the most successful of all the patriarchs despite the fact that the first 73 years of his life were filled with failures. Thus, the dream with the ladder, the angels and God’s blessing characterized a huge turning point in Jacob’s life.
The dream represents a quantum lead in Jacobs approach to success. Previously he had tried to succeed by using his own ingenuity. He saw and opening and tried to capitalize on it. Esau was hungry, so Jacob offered to trade food for his birthright. He saw that his father wanted to give Esau the blessings, so he dressed up like Esau so that he would get them instead.
The dream of a ladder firmly placed on the earth but with its head in the heavens represents a new approach–one that is grounded in reality but recognizes that success ultimately is a blessing from above. The angels going up and down the ladder represent an exchange of energies. The previous approach was being exchanged for a different, more sophisticated and Godly attitude. Jacob realized that success was not a function of his own ability, skill or brilliance, rather it was a function of him doing his best and them giving up control and relying on God to do the rest. Once this shift of energy had occurred God revealed Himself to Jacob and blessed him. From that moment, Jacob’s life changed and everything he began to touch turned to Gold.
There are multiple lessons inherent in this story, the most profound of which is that success is never simply a function of our own abilities and talents, in fact relying on them alone will often lead to failure rather than success. True success is the result of a deep recognition that all that we do must be coupled with guidance and blessing from Above. The moment we stop trying to control everything in our lives and instead allow God to step in and guide us, miracles begin to occur, and then, true success is only a step away.