A Good Thief
by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie
There is a Jewish axiom that we can learn and draw inspiration from everything that we see and experience. Rabbi Zusha of Anipoli taught that we can even learn from a thief. By observing the seven behaviors of a burglar, we can design a formula for successful personal development.
Here are the seven habits of a successful thief:
1) Work quietly - People who create a commotion around their plans for improvement often don't deliver. They seem to place more importance on the impression they create than on the self improvement itself. On the other hand, the thief gets down to business and in his quiet way works towards his goal.
2) Take risks - Being complacent and satisfied with our current achievements often feels like the safer option. Going beyond the norm is frightening. In unknown and unvisited territory we fear failure and rejection. But to grow and to improve we must be prepared, like the thief, to risk disappointment.
3) Pay attention to every detail - The thief doesn't just decide to rob a bank and take a million dollars. Every step down to the last detail is carefully planned and all possibilities are taken into account. If there are complications in your relationships, it is insufficient to make a general commitment to talk nicely to your spouse or children. You need a careful analysis of all the components and causes of the problem and a detailed plan for implementation.
4) Be prepared to invest tremendous effort - The saying that "the only place success comes before work is in the dictionary" is absolutely true. Most of our goals for self improvement are achievable, but not without effort. Like the thief, we must be prepared to invest the effort to overcome all possible obstacles. Personal growth is filled with challenges. Putting in hard work to overcome them is what makes us stronger human beings.
5) Be quick and diligent - Procrastination is one of the most destructive diseases that we suffer from. Postponing tasks that are important but difficult, normally leads to cancelling them. The thief cannot waste a moment, as even a small delay can ruin the entire plan. With personal growth too, every resolution must come with a commitment for at least one immediate step to ensure proper application.
6) Be confident - The thief would not take the risk if he did not believe he could do it. When we resist positive change it is because of a hidden insecurity, a belief that we are not strong or skilled enough to succeed. Belief in ourselves and in the G-d given strength that we all have is crucial in taking the next step.
7) Don't be put off by failure - Why are we afraid of failure? One reason is because when we fail we think that we have wasted all the effort and energy. The thief doesn't. He looks at his failed attempt as being one step closer to his goal. He is now more experienced and understands the needs of his mission with greater clarity. So he tries again. Someone who walks for an hour and slips two kilometres from his destination is still closer to his goal than before. We cannot be afraid of making a mistake. With personal growth, the journey itself is part of the purpose. Every attempt is part of the success. If we fail we try again with greater experience.
Learn the habits of a good thief; he can teach us to become better human beings