by: Rodolfo Vargas
There is an old saying: “No man is your enemy—some men are friends, but every man is your teacher.”
It is amazing what we learn when we are kids and how teachers, coaches, and our environment affect our lives. I have had many teachers and coaches, but I’d like to specifically tell you what I learned from three different people who have marked my life.
The first person was “El Hermano” Leon. He was a Marist brother in El Salvador. I was probably in 6th grade when I had the chance to meet him. He was a legend in the school, a short gentleman of probably 5’2’’, bold and very strict, but with a lot of power in his voice. He said to my parents one day in front of me, “Your son will be somebody.”
I don’t know why he said that about me. Maybe he said that to all parents. But those words took root in my heart, and even today I still believe that I will be somebody who will make a difference in this world. Leon could have said, “Your son is a loser—he’ll never accomplish much.” He could have torn me down. Instead, he poured belief into me, and I made a decision to listen to his words.
Another saying comes to mind here: “Man only dares use his words for three purposes: to heal, bless, or prosper. What man says of others will be said of him, and what he wishes for another, he is wishing for himself.” Although “El Hermano” Leon went to be with Lord, his words will prosper in my soul all my life.
The second person who taught me a great life lesson is my father. I was twelve years old and I was in a very serious swimming competition. I had trained hard for four hours a day for six months. I had followed my diet and I was ready for the main competition. I went to the pool, my coach gave me the pep talk, and I jumped in the water.
Now when we swim the butterfly stroke, one of the mistakes we usually make is move our heads too much to the left or right instead of looking straight at the goal. For the whole competition I was in first place, but in the last five meters I started looking at my competitors. I didn’t finish first—I didn’t even finish second! I finished third.
I can’t explain how devastated I was. The coach gave me a hard look, and I didn’t want to face my father, who was watching from the crowd. I made a decision that I was not going to go and receive the bronze medal. All of a sudden, my father came up to me, and I still remember his words: “Regardless of how many times you are knocked down, you are not whipped if you get up one more time than you were knocked down. Now you go up and receive that bronze medal, no matter how ashamed you are.” I not only learned to stop trying to compare myself with the competition and get distracted, but more importantly I learned how to lose. I learned that when you know in your mind that you’you’ve given something your very best effort and you didn’t succeed, you don’t quit and you don’t be ashamed. Simply move forward.
The last teacher I’d like to talk about is called “failure,” and his last name is “experience.” It is persistence through failure that has taught me the most in my life. The journey to the top is difficult, but you have to remember that every step of the ladder gets you closer to your purpose and that every difficulty has been placed there for a reason.
Demosthenes, the great orator from Greece who we studied in school, has an interesting story. His father left him a fortune that made him very wealthy when he was young. The only problem was that Demosthenes had a speech impediment and was also shy, but according to the Greek law he had to establish his right to ownership in public debate before he could claim his fortune. He did such an awful job in the debate that he lost his estate to someone else.
Did Demosthenes quit? No. He failed, then he went to work and got better. He became so good at public speaking that he is considered the best orator the world has ever had. History neglected to record the man’s name who took his inheritance, but kids in schools around the world have learned the story of Demosthenes for centuries.
It might be a bad relationship or a bad decision in a business. Maybe you said something you regret saying, or maybe an illness is the difficulty you are going through. But what is important is that those difficulties are there to make you better. More than any person you’ll ever meet, failure is the best teacher—if you decide to learn from it. It is through adversity that character is formed.
Remember that is always dark before dawn, and the best days of your life are ahead of you. I decided to learn from adversity and to be ready for the blessings that are about to come. When the storm comes, it comes to everyone; however, we can to decide the attitude we will have toward failure. Successful people don’t have fewer failures or problems than unsuccessful people; they just don’t allow the problems to get them distracted from what is important in life.
Rodolfo Vargas is a Marketing Director at PHP Agency, People Helping People in Houston Texas.