Ever feel like a failure? How about being remembered for experiencing one?
Florence May Chadwick is not only remembered for what she accomplished, but also one specific failure. Born in 1918, Chadwick was a long-distance, rough-water swimmer. Although she is heralded for her swim from Catalina Island, the 26-mile journey wasn’t new to her. In 1952, two months before setting her record, Chadwick had an unsuccessful attempt. After swimming 15 hours, thick fog set in and Chadwick could no longer see her destination. She quit one mile before reaching the shore.
In an interview Chadwick said, “All I could see was the fog…I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.” Chadwick had nearly completed the historical swim but stopped short just before finishing. The fog was too thick for her to see that she had completed 99% of the journey.
One of my first large speaking engagements just happened to be in Mississippi, in the middle of an exceptionally hot and humid summer. My husband Ken and I were to speak back to back in a large room that had no air conditioning for an Army National Guard battalion on annual training (AT). More than one hundred sweaty men in full uniform did their best to stay awake and listen over the loud hum of a fan.
Both speeches complete, Ken and I hopped in our used, mid sized, hybrid vehicle. On the two-lane road less than a half-mile from the armory, our car experienced a mechanical breakdown. It restarted long enough to get back to the hotel and never started again.
That Saturday night we took a hotel shuttle to the airport to rent a car so we could get to our second speech the next day. Vacillating from perplexed to angry, we tried to keep things in perspective. Monday morning our car was towed to the nearest dealership. It had a nail in one tire, a screw in the other and a dead engine. Two mechanics worked on our car all day Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
When the proverbial fog set in over our circumstances, we were really upset. The stay at the hotel and eating out was costing us hundreds of dollars – and we had spoken pro bono. We just couldn’t understand why things weren’t turning out well.
Running out of resources to continue paying for the added expenses of the hotel and dining out, Wednesday afternoon, we went to the dealership to buy a car. We were armed with the knowledge of the Kelly blue book trade-in value, and had a warranty that we thought had two years remaining.
It turned out that our warranty did not have two years remaining. It had approximately two weeks. The warranty was backdated to the first owner. If our car hadn’t died in Mississippi, there is a chance we would not have received the top trade in value. Not only that, it would have cost thousands to repair. The value of the worthless dead car was in the warranty. The warranty garnered us a $10,000 bargaining chip at the dealership.
By Thursday morning we were back on the road toward home in our new ride.
If we had quit, we wouldn’t have spoken to hundreds of service-members that weekend. It was the launching pad for many more speeches and workshops. The experience was the stepping-stone for what would come.
In life, we are often presented the opportunity to keep moving forward through circumstances where we can’t yet see the happy ending or the provision that is just around the corner. We can’t see how we’ll overcome.
The fog, in fact, caused Chadwick to quit.
There is a blessing for those who will keep forging forward despite the unknowns.
The fog seems to set in at inopportune times. You aren’t sure how you will successfully navigate through one season of your life to another prosperous, happier season. For many of us, if we’ll just hang in there, we’ll find we’re close to the other side of the issue. If it weren’t for the fog, the end of the problem would be in sight.
In what area of your life do you need the courage to stay positive and to keep moving forward? I challenge you to stay in the game. Don’t quit! Although you can’t see it, the problem is nearly over. Things are about to turn around. The end of this frustrating season is right in front of you.