At the archery portion of the Naadam Festival held in July each year in Ulaanbaatar, a female archer in elegant Mongolian dress aims to topple a small wall of marked blocks from over half a football field away. The skill demonstrated by the archers in the competition is absolutely amazing as they more often than not hit the center portion of the marked blocks.
For Hunger Games archer Katniss Everdeen, it was take initiative or starve to death. After her father died and her mother was crippled with grief, feeding the family fell to Katniss. It took time, but she learned to recognize that she had developed skills that could save her family if she would put to work the tools her father had given her:
For a while, I hung around the edges of the Meadow, but finally I worked up the courage to go under the fence. It was the first time I’d been there alone, without my father’s weapons to protect me. But I retrieved the small bow and arrows he’d made me from a hollow tree. I probably didn’t go more than twenty yards into the woods that day. Most of the time, I perched up in the branches of an old oak, hoping for game to come by. After several hours, I had the good luck to kill a rabbit. I’d shot a few rabbits before, with my father’s guidance. But this I’d done on my own.
We hadn’t had meat in months… The woods became our savior, and each day I went a bit farther into its arms. It was slow-going at first, but I was determined to feed us. (The Hunger Games, Chapter 4, Paragraphs 17-19, Pages 50-51)
Nephi also learned to show initiative when faced with severe difficulties. His ability to feed his family was threatened when his bow made of fine steel was broken. He made a decision that saved his family. While others complained, he set a self-imposed goal: To make a bow of wood and to put it to work. Nephi would have had to carve a piece of wood long enough, thick enough, straight enough, and flexible yet strong enough to draw back with great force without breaking it. Suitable wood in the area may have included olive, pomegranate, acacia, or juniper.
But it’s what he did next that sets Nephi apart. He went to his spiritual leader to seek his counsel. And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did make out of wood a bow, and out of a straight stick, an arrow. … And I said unto my father: Whither shall I go to obtain food?
Nephi chose to act. He did what he could to fix a bad situation. He didn’t wait to be “compelled in all things” but decided to be “anxiously engaged” and to do something “of [his] own free will” (D&C 58:26–27). The Lord then blessed his efforts by helping him to have a successful hunt (1 Nephi 16:29–31). His goals were not just self-imposed goals; they were goals that saved his family.
Clayton M. Christensen has put this same lesson to work. As a world-renowned innovation expert and the Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, he has bit of experience with showing initiative. Throughout his book, The Power of Everyday Missionaries, Clay describes repeatedly how he has used self-imposed goals to bring about incredible changes in his own life and in the lives of others. No simple quote — Just lots of inspiring counsel from one who knows, from one who learned by doing.
I have learned for myself the importance of showing initiative. It helps us to aim high, to stretch ourselves and our bowstrings, and to reach new goals. It especially helps when we seek counsel from a trusted spiritual leader. And I know that by so doing, we may save our ourselves and our families.
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WebCredits—List of web resources used in this post but not explicitly credited above:
- Photo, Mongolian Archer—www .pinterest.com/jurekes/arco/
- Book, The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins (2008, Scholastic Press, New York NY), ISBN 978-0-439-02348-1
- Painting, Nephi Finds Food While Others Complained—www.lds.org/manual/book-of-mormon-student-manual/chapter-5-1-nephi-16-18
- Photo, Ideas That Change The World—www.claytonchristensen.com
- Book, The Power of Everyday Missionaries: The What and How of Sharing the Gospel, Clayton M. Christensen (2012, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City UT), ISBN 978-1-60907-315-2 (paperbound), 978-1-60907-316-9 (hardbound)
- Article, “Nephi’s Bows”, New Era, Sep 2013, www .lds.org/new-era/2013/09/nephis-bows?lang=eng
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