There is a temptation, particularly when all seems stalled and no real light seems to be appearing at the end of that proverbial tunnel, to stop. Fact is the seduction of stillness is strong. Despair is far more attractive than it is to gather oneself and move. What do you do when there’s no assured payoff? What do you do when opportunity is a matter of chance at best? How do you motivate yourself in the face of the unknown, when there is no sure reward?

There in lies the magic of moving. For it is written “diligence is man’s precious possession.”[1] There’s power in the grind. There’s wealth in the very act of doing. Staying on course in the face of uncertainty, even disappointment is its own reward. As a chorister in The Boys Choir Of Harlem I learned this lesson well. When I first joined I was under the very naïve assumption that I’d be off to the figurative races once being invited to join. The first 18 months of my tenure would more than relieve me of such thinking. Those 18 months felt like an eternity. Every other week I wanted to quit. “Where was the reward…when will I be chosen to perform?” I bemoaned to my mother, who, thankfully had no empathy for my “struggle.” Every other week, became every other day I wanted to quit. All I did was rehearse for what I thought was an opportunity that would never come. Worst of all, I had to watch my peers go on tour after tour and appear on television, then go home to endure the constant inquiries of neighbors and friends: “Aren’t you in the choir? I saw them on TV, but you weren’t there!”

It was only 18 months that felt like 18 years. Yet, during those 18 months, as bad as I wanted to, I never stopped. Actually, I couldn’t even though I very much wanted to. My mother had a habit of not accommodating my whims and insisting that I see things through, no matter how daunting they might have seemed. Then one day, quite suddenly, things changed. I found myself selected for a weekend engagement to Pittsburgh, PA and from then on I was on the performing roster of The Boys Choir Of Harlem.

Being diligent though it may appear there is nothing you’re moving toward is its own kind of preparation. Diligence is a master teacher, often conditioning us for opportunities we don’t expect, but are certainly ready for upon their arrival. I recall how confident I was when I began to perform steadily with The Boys Choir Of Harlem. Suddenly, all of those hours of vocalizing, choreography, rehearsing repertoire, watching the more seasoned members work was a sense of empowerment. I had a wealth of understanding to draw from and build upon. My agony became my anchor.

I think about the Biblical Joseph who was sold into slavery by his own brothers, yet even as a slave he thrived. When he was falsely accused of sexual assault and imprisoned unjustly, he still thrived winning the trust of the warden. Certainly, at some point he had to feel that life was ridiculously unfair and maybe the God of his fathers’ had abandoned him. Who would blame him? Yet, he was diligent. He continued to move, in spite of. Then, quite suddenly and most unexpectedly, the slave, the inmate, would be the second in command in all of Egypt.

Keep it moving, in the light and especially in the dark. Keep it moving, whether motivated or not. Diligence requires stewardship, not inspiration. There’s always something to put your hand to that is specific to your elevation, and believe it or not it is most often not the grandest of tasks. Each step, each stroke of the proverbial plow is cultivating opportunities beyond anything you can ask or think.

[1] Proverbs 12:27