Wednesday, July 28, 2010

It's Only Baloney

Kristy 2010 NPC San Jose

I have mentioned a wonderful inspirational  book several times, and I have a story from it that I would like to share here. The book is "Winning Ways: How To Succeed In The Gym And Out" by Randall J. Strossen, PH.D.

This particular story hits home with me, I have always believed that we shoot as high as we aim. If we settle for just "OK" we will no doubt be just "OK". But when we believe we will achieve our goals and our dreams, we do.

This is story #58: It's Only Baloney

The doctor came out of the delivery room and told the man that he could either save the mother or the child but probably not both. As good fortune would have it, both lived, but the baby's arm was broken during the delivery, and in such a way that all the nerves in his left shoulder were shattered.

Despite a surgeon's best efforts to reconnect the nerves, the boy would face life with one arm that was a caricature of the other. His left arm was four inches shorter than his right. And even though he spent his first six years with his left arm in a heavy steel and leather brace and his first thirteen years in twice-weekly physical therapy sessions, his left arm was virtually useless. He would never be able to raise it over his shoulder or even straighten it out; he would never be able to clench or extend the fingers. In fact, learning to tie his shoes was one of the biggest challenges of his life.

But this kid was no whiner, so instead of cowering in a corner, he squared off with his challenges. For every insult he had to endure, he just got tougher as he fought back. When he was 14 he said "I discovered that $42.00 was all I needed to erase the hated image of myself that faced me every night from the mirror...My left arm hung crooked by my side, practically without muscle" Forty-two dollars, you see, was the price of a barbell set he'd seen advertised in a magazine. Since his family could barely afford the dollar for each of his therapy sessions, he knew it was out of the question to ask for $42.00. What did he do? He saved the .10 cents he'd been spending on bus fare from the hospital twice a week, first by walking and then running the five miles. That, he said, marked the beginning if his athletic career.

He got the weights and put them to good use. It wasn't too long afterward that he began playing high school football, earning his eligibility by wearing a baggy sweater and keeping his arms behinds his back so the physician wouldn't notice his gimpy left arm. He won a starting spot by always trying to hit harder and be tougher than any other kid on the team. The kid with the withered left arm was moving up, and you might guess he went on to a nice job in a local car dealership, married his high school sweetheart, and lived happily ever after, with his high school football letter proudly displayed in the family room of his suburban home.

That wouldn't be a half-bad story, but the real one is even better. The kid gave the track team a shot, and one day he threw the hammer. Even if you've never seen the hammer thrown, you might guess that its a two handed event, which it is. As with the shot put, the best in the world are among the most powerful athletes on the face of the earth. If the kid had been a cry-baby, if he'd said to himself, "I'm only a cripple," he'd had never made it this far, but he wasn't one to let his vision be limited by the piles of "I'm only..." baloney. He stuck with the hammer, attacking the event with his characteristic ferocity.

Fast forward a few years to Melbourne, Australia, and the medal ceremonies at the 1956 Olympics. The reporters were yelling at the winner to raise his arms over his head for their victory photos. The man raised his right arm, but even to that day-the day he climbed to the highest level in his sport-he couldn't raise his left arm above his shoulder. Harold Connolly may not have been born with two good arms, but that didn't keep him from winning the gold medal in the hammer throw. It didn't keep him from making the next three Olympic teams, either. If he had succumbed to the "I'm only..." baloney, he'd probably have been a bitter man hiding in some dark corner. Instead, there he was, standing with the Olympic gold medal around his neck and the world at his feet.

The "I'm only..." baloney has a long history. It's been both proffered as a reason for not taking in challenges and, conversely, rejected as so much drivel. For example, in the Old Testament, when Jeremiah was told that he'd been appointed as a prophet, he tried to wiggle out of his mission by saying "I'm only a boy," which netted him the rebuke, "Do not say, I am only a boy." Jeremiah got the message and went on to work.

You might not be Harold Connolly or Jeremiah, but their examples teach us a lesson: Don't sell yourself short; don't ever limit your vision of what you can do; don't ever say, "I'm only..." because that's nothing but baloney.

Winning Ways if chock full of similar stories. Whether your goal is to lose weight, eat healthier, reduce stress, stop smoking, makes no difference. Believe in yourself and you will succeed.

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