I PASSED! And The Value Of Persistence

December 08, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

I experienced a personal triumph yesterday. I achieved a goal that I had set for myself. It was not a financial goal, although such would have been easier to accomplish. It was a personal goal, a physical goal, one that only I could achieve.

Some background. In addition to photography, I am also a ski instructor. Photography slows down during the winter months so I fill in the gap by teaching skiing. For the upcoming season, the resort where I teach instituted a fitness test for all instructors as part of the rehire process. Such is not unusual. Many ski resorts throughout the country are doing the same thing. It is to make sure that instructors can meet the physical requirements of the position. After all, skiing is a very active sport.

So I took the test, and despite the fact that I had exercised, lost over fifty pounds since last January, and did a lot of hiking, I failed. I thought I was ready. But I wasn't ready enough. Oh how I hate failure! The examiner gave me a series of exercises to perform over a period of one month, and then return to retake the test. I was devastated. Why me? I was prepared, or so I thought. Everybody else seemed to have passed. Did I really want to teach skiing this year? Maybe it's time to give up the profession and to Hell with the stupid test. I was angry, frustrated, and did a such a great job of feeling sorry for myself that I should have won a prize. I vented my feelings on one of my dearest friends. Of course I promptly and sincerely apologized, and lucky for me we are still close friends. There is a lot of truth to the saying that a friend sees you as you really are, and likes you anyway. I calmed down. I love skiing and I love teaching; I knew what I had to do.

If someone was to ask me what is my strongest attribute, without hesitation I would say it is persistence. Here's an example. Last night I played a game of Sudoku (I love the game). Normally I can solve a "Difficult" puzzle in about forty five minutes (often less). But the puzzle I had last night was one of the toughest I had ever experienced. Nothing in my bag of tricks worked. After about two and a half hours and several trial solutions (educated guesses) that resulted in the dreaded "blank square", I finally solved the puzzle. It was ugly, but I solved it. Persistence is also how I got through college while enduring many setbacks and disappointments in my undergraduate and graduate degree programs, but I achieved both Bachelors and Masters degrees in Engineering. Sometimes I think I am persistent to the point to where it does me more harm than good. But giving up is something that is abhorrent to me. I feel like such a loser. And that's what I feel when I experience failure. Maybe that's the reason why I lash out -- not that such excuses any bad behavior on my part.

One of the exercises I was told to perform was to walk at least 150 minutes per week, which I did faithfully for the entire month. Since I live on top of a mountain, a two mile walk includes both uphill and downhill terrain. Who needs a treadmill. Sometimes I would walk in the valley where the terrain is generally flat. But most of the time I walked on top of the mountain. I often walked to the very top of a steep trail, and when I did so I thought only of the re-test. I wanted so much to pass the exam. 

So yesterday I took my re-test. And I passed! I was ecstatic! I wanted to tell the world. I accomplished the goal I had set for myself, and I felt great.

Perhaps some of you may ask why I am making such an ado about a test that an average person in good health can easily pass. To answer that, I am sixty two years old, I smoked much of my life but have now been an ex-smoker for over ten years, and for the past several years I was very much overweight. I overcame all of these challenges, and with effort and persistence, I accomplished a goal that would have been impossible a year ago.

Until next time,

Paul


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