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Mondays With Mark: Persistence & Determination


Posted on 4/11/2016 by Rosalea Peters, WEO Media Staff
"Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."
Calvin Coolidge

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."
Winston Churchill

Let me take you back. Back to a sunny Oregon day in the 1980's. It was the state high school cross-country track finals and I happened to be attending because my younger brother was running and I wanted to cheer him on.

You see, although I was on the track team, I wasn't running that day because I hadn't made the cut. Not for the varsity team and not for the JV team. In my time on the team I had never won a race and, in fact, I had never even placed in any race... ever. That seemed to be my lot in life.

Much changed in my own thinking on this particular day though.

A few minutes before the JV 3k final was to begin the coach came over to me. "You wouldn't happen to have your shoes with you?" he asked. I smiled. "Of course, I always have them in the car." One of the varsity runners had just gotten ill and was out for the day so they bumped one of the JV guys up to the varsity team and left the number seven spot open on the JV team and I happened to be there (with my shoes). By pure luck I was running in the JV state finals. There were a dozen other team members that should have been ahead of me for that seventh slot, but I was in the right place at the right time.

Now you can probably imagine my outlook on this particular race as I laced up my shoes and walked up to the starting line. Here are one hundred of the best JV runners in the state and here I am, some kid that had never placed in a race. Do I have a chance? Not in a million years. But I am here and I'm going to run, so I'll do my best.



What is my best?

Kind of a funny question when faced with certain failure. I decided in that moment that although I was not nearly a match for the towering, muscled, pack of athletes lined up there, I did have a strength, I was pretty good on hills. There was only one hill on this particular course and it was only about 50 yards long but it was pretty steep and only 100 yards from the start. If I couldn't win the race I could win something for myself. I picked my goal — I was going to be the first person to the top of that hill. For me, it was going to be my win.

When the starting gun went off I think I shocked everyone because I took off at a dead sprint. As you might imagine that isn't the typical strategy for a 3000 meter race but I figured my race was only 150 meters. I just had to get to the top of that hill. I couldn't believe it. I was in the lead at the bottom of the hill. I was sure the rest of the pack was right on top of me. So I took that hill with everything I had, accelerating all the way up. I reached the top and - I had won. I had never won before. It was amazing. What was more amazing is that no one was even close to me at that point. It was a surreal moment.

What should you do when you achieve your goal? You keep going! I set another goal, and another, and another. Granted near the end of that race my goal was to not die, but I even succeeded with that one too. On top of all of those successes in that one race I ended up winning the whole race too. In fact only one other runner was even within 500 meters of me at the end.

It blew my mind. How was this possible?

I've spent the bulk of my life since that day exploring this idea and how a change in mindset, a change in focus, a determined mind can transform the impossible to the doable.

What are the little successes you could achieve today?

Take your strengths (whatever they may be) and concentrate them on what is in front of you today with all your heart. I can assure you, you will be amazed at what happens next!
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