The greatest lessons in life sometimes come from the most unexpected places. One late afternoon, on a warm spring day in my nineteenth year, I sat with a friend of mine on a cliff in Palos Verdes, gazing out at the Pacific blue. Waiting for the sun to set, we sat in silence, feeling our separate worlds merge.
O U T O F S T I L L N E S S
Out of the stillness, my friend plucked a stone from the ground, pointed to a short wooden post about twenty feet away and said, “What do you want to bet I can hit that post?” I thought for a moment, eyeing the target and decided to bet against it. He threw the rock and missed. I laughed and flashed him a victorious smile. He smiled back just as triumphantly and then picked up another rock. I looked at him and said, “Wait a minute. You didn’t tell me you were going to keep trying.” He gave me an incredulous look. “Did you really think I was going to give up after just one shot?” I thought about that for a moment. For my friend, quitting after only one attempt was inconceivable. “Well then,” I said, “I want to change my bet.”
I knew that if he had made up his mind to keep trying until he hit the post, there was a much greater chance he would succeed. I went from being fairly sure he would fail—given the size of the rock, the distance of the target and the rigorous winds on the cliff—to being almost positive he would succeed, and all it took was knowing that he wouldn’t give up until he accomplished his goal.
From where I sat, the odds seemed to magically change the instant he picked up that second stone, and his steadfast determination made the logistics of the situation less of a determining factor in the outcome.
This simple exchange resounded in my mind for many days after, sinking into my psyche and eventually lodging firmly in the personal constellation of experiences that inform my philosophy on life.
A S I N G L E M O M E N T
That single moment in time has been an ongoing source of strength and courage for me throughout the years, and I draw on the experience every time I face a challenge with seemingly insurmountable odds, or feel my belief in my dreams slipping away. Knowing that everything changes if you simply refuse to give up can change everything. And whenever I meet someone who faces a similar challenge I tell them this story. I have had many come back to me years later to say that, simple as it is, this little story changed their lives.
If you have a dream and those around you continually remind you the odds of success are slim, just smile and pick up another stone. Eventually, if you never give up, you will hit your target, and those around you will change their tune.
S T A Y T H E C O U R S E
We all need reminders periodically, to reaffirm our future goals and keep us on track with our core life dreams, especially in these challenging times. One way to remind yourself is to go searching for what I call a Dream Stone. Find a small round stone, without too much weight—one that fits perfectly in your closed palm—perhaps down by a river or the ocean, where the water has smoothed all its edges away, and carry it in your pocket whenever you need to be reminded of how the odds change when you make a commitment to “stay the course.” Let it remind you to keep moving forward, even if it means taking only tiny steps toward your goal (every step counts no matter how small). Let it remind you to believe in yourself, and know that you will persevere against any and all odds. And when you come across people who share their dreams with you and then tell you the chances of that dream coming true are slim, you might be inspired to take the stone out of your pocket and share this story.
PS: Just in case you were wondering, my friend did eventually hit the pole with a notably larger rock and 23 subsequent attempts (yes, I counted). :~}
Elayne G James — Author of The LightBridge Series [www.LightBridgeLegacy.com]