Tough task ahead; you can do it

A few years ago, my brother Jack and his wife were canoeing the North Fork of the White River in the Ozark Mountains. They stayed a little too long on a gravel bar and the time got away from them. It was dusk by the time they reached the take-out point and with little light Jack passed it. By the time he realized his mistake, his only option was to canoe back upstream against a strong current.

He put all his strength into it. Paddle by paddle, he made his way up the stream and lost a little bit of progress between strokes. The task took its toll on him and when his wife saw he was fading she feared staying all night on the river bank and started screaming, “You can do it. You can do it. You Can Do It.” He straightened up, looked straight ahead, and poured himself into pushing that paddle against the water. And finally, he did do it.

I’ve thought about that story and the many times I found myself in the middle of tasks I didn’t think I could do. When I was 12 working in the hay fields throwing bales high onto the wagon, I told myself, “You can do it.” My brother Joe was right next to me tossing bale after bale with no hesitation. In the hot summer football practices when I thought I couldn’t take another step, I told myself, “You can do it.”

When I was in the coal mine at year five, seven or nine, I told myself, “You Can Do It. You can get through this with all your fingers, hands and toes.” When I was working on my doctorate and starring at a blank page I told myself, “You can do It. Everything is riding on this success.” When I am asked to speak to 200, 300, or 500 people, I practice a lot and tell myself, “You Can Do It. It will be good.”

When I was 9 years old, I quit 4-H after a couple of meetings. I saw the disappointment in Dad’s eyes. He had suggested I join in the first place. He only said, “Glenn, you don’t have to start something you don’t want to do. But if you choose to start, you should finish it.” I joined again the next year and spent seven years as a 4-H member. It was a rewarding experience. I met a lot of kids I would not have met otherwise. I won six trophies for showing cows at the fair and I had a lot of fun.

Most of us have experienced a lot of tough tasks, job, or relationships. Life itself can be tough at times. I doubt it would be as interesting if it wasn’t. The exhilaration of attempting a challenging task and succeeding is amazing. Regardless of the thing you must do, you too can do the tough things is life, the important things in life. Successful leadership involves focus, will, and planning.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s completely revised, third printing of The Facilitative Leader: Behaviors that Enable Success, visit his Web site, or call him at 740-629-4536. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.