Become a person who never quits, grows in the face of challenges and inspires others to do the same.
I got a text at the end of the summer asking me for help. A friend needed advice on how to convince a young man not to quit. The young man had just finished his first summer at one of our nation’s military academies. But, he was not happy. He was talking about walking away from one of the best educations in our nation and the opportunity to graduate from one of our most prestigious institutions. Here is the exact text response—minus the spelling errors and emojis—that I sent him.
A. The academies are not a fit for everyone and there is no shame in figuring that out.
B. A lot of us were ready to quit at this point. A LOT!!! Some of them are now Two and Three Star Generals.
C. I’d do everything to get through the first year. Great education. Incredible learning experience. Be sure the life is not for you. It is truly too early to tell. Academic year is very different than that first summer (which sucks and is meant to suck). It’s not the real military. The friendships are built starting now. They are lifelong and unbreakable. Fraternities do not come close to comparing to these friendships.
I do not know the young man I was asked to advise. I heard he felt the academy was not for him. In the end, he chose to leave. I am sure he will be successful in life. Why? Because he was good enough to be admitted to the academy in the first place.
But, my advice to him sprang from my own experiences at West Point. I frequently said to myself, “If I could just make it through this next ________, then I am a step closer to graduating from this place.” Those challenges included numerous obstacles: road marches, electrical engineering exams, punishment tours and fitness tests. If I focused on the thing right in front of me, I got discouraged. Honestly, the thing in front of me sucked. But, if I focused further out— towards the real prize or the potential for what was to come—I found I could make it through my current circumstance.
I am reminded of this lesson each time I get caught up in my current circumstances. The present can suck and it will discourage me if I let it. But, if I shift my focus to the future—and if I identify the real prize in front of me—then my current circumstances look less like roadblocks and more like challenges.
Challenges can be overcome. When each of us look back, we often see how the challenges we overcame were the challenges which made us better. Either that or they were the challenges which helped us reach for a new prize. If we had quit in the face of those challenges, we would be in a totally different place in life. That place would probably not be as fruitful as where we are today. Thus, the long-term outlook has the power to change our life.
Staying positive when we want to quit, is a choice. Shifting our focus from the sucky challenge right in front of us, to look down the road to a potential prize, is how we persevere and get through it. This gives us the boost we need for today. When we do this day-after-day, the challenges seem smaller and we become that person who never quits, grows in the face of challenges and inspires others to do the same.
Dig Deep Questions:
What short-term obstacles are in front of you?
What are the long-term prizes you could focus on?
Who could you lead to shift their focus today?
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