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In a comment on my recent post entitled Run On, Nancy Burke, my dear friend and writing buddy (http://www.nancyburkestories.com/) shared this story about legendary marathoner Tom Fleming:
“I was in high school when he won at Boston or NY, I can’t remember which, but my math and homeroom teacher, Mr. Williams, invited him back to Bloomfield High School to do an assembly. He’d graduated a few years earlier. Tom was cut from soccer when he was a student at BHS. If he had not been cut, he would not have gone out for the cross country team. Imagine! Mr. Williams was the cross country and track coach who inherited this talent from the soccer coach. He was so proud of him! Remember that if you think you’ve failed at one thing…it is merely a correction on your path to greatness!”
Nancy’s inspiring story reminds me of another Tom’s tale of woe-turned-to-success:
Tom M. was a student at a New Jersey public school. He was an avid football fan and just loved the game. Though he wasn’t a big guy, he somehow persuaded his mother, against her better judgment, to go out for his school’s football team. She signed the consent form and soon after, Tom was injured. He was unable to play, but his coach offered to let him stay on the team anyway. Tom found it too painful, so he turned to other activities to help him get through his disappointment. He ended up trying out for the school musical and landed the lead in Guys and Dolls. The mom of one of the female leads managed to cajole an agent into attending a performance, hoping he’d notice her daughter. He didn’t. Instead, he was impressed by the energy and charisma of the show’s male star. He kept in touch with the young dynamo and eventually signed him. His stage name? Tom Cruise.
Two Toms. Two different talents. And two people whose worst disappointments turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to them. These tales of two Toms remind us the beginning of a story doesn’t always contain its end – we get to write that ourselves.
So, the next time a big disappointment comes our way – an event or rejection that really slams us flat – let’s keep in mind that we have two choices. We can stay down or we can bounce back. We can spiral into a negative loop or we can pick ourselves up and say:
“If not this, then something better” or “When one door closes, another opens,” or “May this bring best and highest good for all concerned” – and then keep going.
I love Nancy’s words of wisdom: “Remember that if you think you’ve failed at one thing…it is merely a correction on your path to greatness!” Bravo, Nancy. Write on!