CORAL GABLES, Fla., December 15, 2012 — Recently at an In His Wakes event, I had the privilege of meeting a young man named King. King was about 17 years old and had never, before this day, encountered water sports. After watching several peers successfully water ski, King gathered the courage to try it himself.
After he positioned himself on the ski boom, the boat took off. As the water began to flow up on his chest, King panicked. Rather than waiting patiently for the boat to pull him up, he quickly straightened his legs, which caused his body to fall forward.
When the boat came to a stop, King swam to the platform, climbed aboard, and called it quits. He was so discouraged because he had not been successful the first time like the other kids. He immediately began to talk negatively about himself and give excuses why he would never be successful – his weight, his inexperience, his inability to swim.
I’ve taught enough skiers to know that with another try or two, King would be successful. If he would just shut his ears to the internal voices coming against him in his mind, he would be up on top of the water in no time. King didn’t need to know how to swim to ski. He didn’t need to weigh a certain amount to get up. With the equipment we had, all King needed to do was to find the courage to lay aside his fears and doubt, and try again.
As we made our way back to shore, I focused my attention on King. I knew this young man needed victory, not because he needed to experience skiing or other water sports activities, but because he needed to know the value of perseverance. He needed to realize that his perceived limitations weren’t limitations at all.
Finally, with much encouragement, King finally agreed to try water sports again; this time on the kneeboard. He had tried kneeboarding earlier in the day, but like skiing, he had not been successful. I promised King that if he would listen to the instructors and keep on trying, he would have success.
Success did come, but boy did it come slow. After one unsuccessful attempt after another, King grew more and more discouraged. After about the tenth try, he looked at me and asked, “Ma’am, will you please let me quit?”
“I can’t, King.” I replied. “You’ve almost got it! If you just make a simple adjustment on your body position, you’ll have it!”
At this point, King had an audience of other teens, most of whom had had success on their very first attempt. This didn’t make the situation easy. Some began to jeer and laugh at his failed attempts. Our In His Wakes team hushed the onlookers and encouraged King to keep on trying. After making a couple of adjustments to his body position, King finally had success!
With tears in my eyes, I watched as he pulled away from the shore and rode around the lake on the kneeboard. When he climbed in the boat after his ride, his arms immediately shot up in the air in victory. To put it mildly, King felt like a king!
When he returned to shore, our team circled him with hugs and high fives. We were so proud of him, but even more so, we were excited for him. King had experienced something powerful that day, something he could carry with him every day of his life.
Although all the participants of our event had achieved success on the water, only King had truly experienced victory. Only King had done what was hard: He had kept moving forward when every part of him wanted to quit, when every voice in him and around him screamed defeat.
To put it mildly, King inspired many people that day, including myself. His willingness to keep trying in the face of defeat reminded us all of the incredible power of perseverance. In King, we witnessed the truth that victory is always just another try away.
Every day we will face things that seem incredibly difficult and perhaps down right impossible. Every day, we will be tempted to give reason why we can’t do something. Every day, voices will rise up in us and around us telling us “we can’t”; they may even laugh at our expense.
But like King, if we refuse to allow our emotions to overtake our willingness to try, if we refuse to listen to the voices surrounding us, victory will come. Like King, if we make an adjustment to how we are doing something and keep trying, victory will come. Like King, if we surround ourselves with people who spur us on to victory with words of encouragement and wisdom of how to move forward, victory will come.
“Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.” General George S. Patton
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