“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same.” (anonymous)
I love this quote, as it resonates with me and my life journey to date, as I think about all those who have coached, mentored and encouraged me along the different paths I have travelled. There have been times when I have been impatient at the lack of progress with an idea or because other people simply can’t catch the vision, while at other times I have wondered what would have happened had I persevered.
How many times can you remember quitting and, as you reflected at a later date, regretted doing so?
Three stories from the past week have shown what perseverance, even patience can mean as individuals strive to achieve different goals.
The picture that heads my blog today is of Australian swimmer Emily Seebohm, aged 25, winning the World 200 meters Backstroke at the World Championships in Budapest. From the high standards she had set for herself, she failed abysmally at the Rio Olympic Games and came close to quitting the sport. She was suffering from health issues and, once these were sorted, decided to persevere. Having been swimming for Australia for 11 years, few would have begrudged her deciding to retire, as she had won so many medals already. However, she clearly felt she had more to achieve and so began the long, lonely slog of training and training and training! Her patience with herself and her perseverance, together with the critical support of key people in her life, helped her to return to the top of the Swimming world in her specialist stroke.
Having won the race she made two interesting statements in the post race interview:
“I was going to be proud of myself whether I won or came last tonight.”
“Sometimes you have to go down to go back up.”
Emily is clearly striving to be the best swimmer she can be. She trained hard for the World Championships, hence her comment that, no matter what the result might be, she had given it her best shot.
A 16-year old student I am informally mentoring sent me an email the other night telling me that she feels she has given everything her best effort this year. I applauded her!
Emily was in that dark, lonely place and decided, with the support and help of others (a crucial point and significant in the journey of a mentor), she would try once again to keep pushing to become the best she could be.
While sharing thoughts about Champions, the other story that caught my eye was that of Australian surfer, Sally Fitzgibbons. Since 2009 Sally has finished runner-up to the World Champion three times and was in the top four on three other occasions. And what does she say?
“It’s [Surfing] a way of life that feels insanely good. I just try to make the most of what’s in front of me. I wear my heart on my sleeve and try to compete with that fighting Aussie spirit. You get knocked down and you have to fight and work hard to get back up and keep on charging.”
There’s the perseverance in play again, though she also says, “… I am so passionate about my sport and the chance to be a competitor at all. That energizes me every day to get up and go after it. I’m always seeking to learn and become a stronger more intelligent competitor. After nine years on tour I now feel nine times stronger, nine times a better surfer, nine times fitter, nine times more experienced and nine times more intelligent as a competitive surfer.”
What drives her? Her passion. What else drives her? A desire to learn. Anything else? She has a GOAL of being Number 1 Surfer in the world.
My third experience was totally different. I went to see Christopher Nolan’s fascinating film, ‘Dunkirk’, the World War 11 story of the bravery and planning that went into rescuing over 300,000 British and French troops trapped on the beach at Dunkirk in France.
Whether one was in an aeroplane trying to protect naval and merchant navy ships or one of the multitude of small boats that journeyed to Dunkirk to rescue these soldiers, or an Army Officer trying to encourage the troops on the beach or a soldier having to survive after a ship fetching him was bombed, this was an amazing story of defeating the odds. The patience of just hanging in and working as a team with fellow soldiers and the courage of those sailing their small boats across the Channel – perseverance in the face of adversity was real.
The resilience of so many of those soldiers meant that they could return to Britain and, in many cases, return to participate in the War.
I have often shared in Blogs the impact that sharing stories can have on mentees.
These are three different stories that can be shared with mentees and could lead to discussions around:
- chasing dreams;
- setting goals;
- living a healthy lifestyle;
- working with other trusted people to achieve a goal;
- never quitting, rather learning from every experience;
- moving out of one’s comfort zone and all the risks involved in doing that;
- what it means to strive to become the best one can be;
- identifying strengths and developing resiliency;
- maybe exploring the lives of people a mentee admires;
- sharing your own story.
Each of our mentees will have their own story to share. Each will be in a different space. Through being authentic and showing empathy and lots and lots of PATIENCE, we can take on the role of the non-judgmental Cheerleader and watch our mentee spread his or her wings and soar positively into the future with our footprint firmly imprinted on his or her heart..
Emily Seebohm, Sally Fitzgibbons and all who participated at Dunkirk have stories to share to motivate and inspire each one of us to become the best we can be.
About the author: Robin Cox has been a School Principal, sports coach to National Under 19 Level, Youth Symposium Organizer, developer of Youth Mentoring Programs in New Zealand and Australia, Churchill Fellow and author of books linked to youth mentoring, Peer Mentoring and the development of adolescents to become the best they can be. He has trained over 1,000 volunteer adult mentors, run workshops for teachers promoting the Spirit of Mentoring and personally mentored over 1,000 adolescents. Still an idealist, a cancer survivor of 50+ years, married with two adult children, Robin lives in Australia and shares a passion with anyone wanting to make a positive difference in the global community. You can see his short daily mentoring tips on Twitter @million2016coxy or on Facebook or on Instagram or contact him through his YES! website