I write to you now as Flirt and I prepare to re-enter the show ring for the first time since June last year. This, and some recent events at work, have inspired this month’s post.
If you’re like me, you have been required to sit through several motivational speakers over the years. Some have been good, but more often they end up being rather lackluster. As such, I have to give my current employers a lot of credit because in the last two years, they have brought in some truly exceptional speakers with messages that resonate.
Last year, we were privileged to hear Jim Lovell, an Apollo 13 astronaut, and Gene Kranz, NASA’s flight director for the same mission. If you have never heard of Apollo 13, I highly recommend the movie with Tom Hanks. And if you are familiar with the story, you know how in 1970, an oxygen tank on the spacecraft blew and the team had very limited resources and options – yet they brought all the astronauts home alive against overwhelming odds. The theme of Jim and Gene’s talk was how to conduct yourself when failure is not an option. If you believe you cannot fail, you will find a way to succeed – something I need to remember as I push myself to improve.
This year, we heard champion race car driver Derek Daley. First and foremost, Derek told the story of a serious accident that sidelined him for several months… sound familiar? When others asked Derek if he was going to go back to racing – he responded: I realized that my accident was not the legacy that I wanted to leave… do you think you could ever consider that difficulty is your gift?
Derek’s story was so similar to my own that each word had an echoing effect inside my brain. He never doubted that he would get back to his sport and succeed – and accordingly, he drove his best races after the accident. The more that I work now, the more I believe that both Flirt and I are better for the time we had apart last summer. Moreover, I spent time seriously concentrating on my fitness and my abilities. If nothing else, rehabilitation – difficulty – was a gift.
Derek went on to discuss how difficulty gives you the opportunity to grow, to stretch, and to be better than you ever were before. And all of this is a choice. Rising above difficulty is a way of thinking and a culture in and of itself. I also have personal experience with this truth – Several doctors and nurses were shocked at my positive attitude after I fell last summer. How can you be so cheerful when you’re lying in a hospital bed? Yet I thought: the damage is done. I can either feel sorry for myself, or I can make the best of it and move on with my life. And here I am – back on my feet months sooner than anyone expected. It’s amazing what positive thinking and determination can do when you refuse to believe that you can’t get back to 100%.
Naturally, the difficulty is not over yet. The closer we get to competition, I find myself stumbling a little. As Sari reminded me – I need to stop thinking about where I was two years ago and start riding for where I am today. Flirt seems to get more spectacular every day and is thriving more now than ever before… I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve such an amazing horse with a willing and caring attitude. Flirt believes we can do it and now I need to as well. I can only hope all the good continues… and yet I’m so scared that it won’t. Yet another difficulty: will I choose to live by that fear or overcome the adversity?
The key point of Derek Daley’s speech was that the critical gains occur at the very margins of possibility. While it means something very different at the office, it’s even more meaningful when you think in terms of riding. The margins are the split seconds of time where the horse leaves the ground and you release your hands. It’s the split second where you hit the inside turn or you decide to adjust for the distance that allows you to go clear. The one quote that I took away from the speech reminds me to “Think about the possibilities – because they are profound.”
Along those lines, a quote I hung on my wall almost 10 years ago says “Never fear the shadows. They simply mean there is a light shining nearby.” So I choose to keep working toward that light, one step at a time.