Faith is a little word with a pretty big meaning. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Faith isn’t blind reliance, but it does require you to put one step in front of the other without knowing what lies ahead. We are all intrinsically wired to have faith. But as we experience life, we often forget to believe and lose this important trait. But for some, faith becomes second nature; a breath of fresh air that blows through when needed the most.
Superstar recording artist and “The Queen of Disco,” Gloria Gaynor, told me, “One of the benefits of having little in life is that it makes it easier to be grateful for all you have.” And an attitude like that is what helps to build great faith. Faith in the ability to succeed, overcome, and achieve even when life seems utterly impossible.
Fresh out of high school in 1978, I worked as a bouncer in a wide range of establishments—from local dives to upscale clubs. I was a classic rock fan, with no use for the new dance music that was invading my world. Then I heard the disco song “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor. As it did with so many others, the song struck an emotional chord deep down inside of me. That song became somewhat of an internal anthem that I played in my head when facing my own challenges and obstacles.
At our most desperate moments those three words, I will survive, can get us through situations that may feel like the end of the world. Now—more than thirty years later—I had the opportunity to interview Gloria about the meaning behind the song and her insights on life. What an inspiration!
Born in Newark, New Jersey, Gloria came from a relatively poor family, but she describes life at home as a “house filled with laughter and happiness.” She said, “My dad was an absentee father; my mom dropped out of school by the seventh grade. Growing up we had limited means, but being poor made me appreciate all we did get that much more.”
Gloria loved music from an early age, and music was in her family. Her father played the nightclub circuit and her brothers sang Gospel music. Although she participated in school choirs, Gloria wasn’t noticed for musical ability. But still, her real dream was to have a singing career.
Gloria sang with a jazz/pop group, the Soul Satisfiers, in the 1960s and recorded a few solo singles for a small Chicago label. She sang at nightclubs. One night a producer caught her show. That producer arranged a meeting for Gloria with the president of Columbia Records, Clive Davis, who signed her to a record deal. She released her first album, Never Can Say Good-Bye, in 1975.
Gloria’s success was moderate as she released two more albums, but in 1978 her career skyrocketed when the album Love Tracks came out—and its “I Will Survive” climbed to the top of the charts. In 1980, the song won the Grammy Award for Best Disco Recording. It has since been recognized as one of Billboard magazine’s “All-Time Hot 100” songs and Rolling Stone magazine included it in its list of “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”
Gloria recognizes a deeper truth behind her greatest hit, however. A woman of deep faith and conviction, she says, “Without faith, inspiration, and encouragement, ‘I Will Survive’ is little more than an empty catchphrase.”
She has had her share of naysayers and negative people who have criticized her. Some sounded almost jubilant as they pronounced the demise of disco and cruelly proclaimed of her, “The Queen is dead!” But she responds: “I have learned that when people criticize you, they are really talking about themselves. They have limited belief in what they can do. Filled with self-doubt, they want to feel important. If they can’t do it in a productive and positive way, they will do it in a negative and harmful way—and they don’t care if they hurt others. But I’ve learned that even if I get hurt for a minute, it does not change who I am. My value comes from God and what He placed in me. We all have God-given talents, abilities, and gifts. Each and every one of us should use them: Nobody is destined to fail! God has made me unique—he has made each of us unique. I will do some things better than others, and others will do some things better than I can. This means that if you use these gifts, it will make you like nobody else. I will not let anybody but myself define who I am.”
Gloria continued with some timeless advice for us all …“Discipline is the only bridge between thought and accomplishment, because consistency is key to accomplishing your goals. Procrastination is a thief, because it steals your choices, opportunities, and time. Overall, surrender to the truth. Don’t try to go around it or over it—just deal with it. The truth is what it is. Don’t try to change it and you will thrive.”
Faith has always remained a supporting pillar for Gloria. No doubt about it, she is completely dedicated to her strong belief and faith in that which has yet to come. Even when she was told, time and time again, that she wasn’t good enough or her music wasn’t catchy enough, faith always prevailed. It acted as a guiding light, moving her through the torrential waters and toward safe shores. Remember, a little bit of faith can go a long way.
What can you do today to move closer to achieving your dreams?
Support your faith and support your truth. Distance yourself from people who do not move you in the right direction. Your faith should be tended to like a garden. Overall, surrender to the truth. Don’t try to go around it or over it—just deal with it. The truth is what it is. Don’t try to change it and you will thrive.
Remain disciplined. Discipline is the only bridge between thought and accomplishment, because consistency is key to accomplishing your goals. Procrastination is a thief, because it steals your choices, opportunities, and time.
(c) 2016 Jerry Gladstone