This blog is a short one [collective sigh of relief]. It consists of a simple story that helped shape who I am as well as a powerful truth that holds ridiculous value when it comes to transforming a life.
Let’s get to it.
It was the first week of high school, I was 14 years old and I sat alone on my bedroom floor. I was upset, I was frustrated and I felt lost.
I was at a crossroads and I didn’t even know it.
Just one week after beginning school in “geometry honors” [the most advanced math class], I received the lowest grade of my academic career and it crushed me.
I got a “D” on my first high school test.
I felt stupid. I felt disappointed. I felt like I didn’t belong. I can still remember coming home from school in tears begging my mother to let me drop down to the “regular geometry class” because I wasn’t good enough to be in the honors section. Needing to consult with my dad before providing me with an answer, she deferred the decision until he got home from work.
What happened that night didn’t seem special to me at the time, but when I look back, I realize that the following events shaped who I am in a big way.
Following a long, busy and what appeared to be stressful day of work, my father arrived home. He was briefed on the situation and my request to drop down to the easier and less challenging class.
I let a single test define my worth.
I wanted to take the easy way out.
I wanted to quit.
Instead of allowing me to drop the class, my father saw an opportunity to teach me a lesson. I knew he was tired and I knew that the last thing he wanted to do was high school math. However, for the next several hours, he sat on my bedroom floor with me and helped me learn from the mistakes that I made on the test. It would have been easy for him to let me change classes but instead, he chose the hard road; he helped me work through a math problem as taught himself geometry for the first time in 20+ years
In what I now know to be an incredible display of patience and an admirable act of love, my father showed me that I could in fact improve. He showed me that with hard work, dedication, focus, patience and the right attitude, I could do anything that I wanted. It all started with a single geometry problem and from there, it blossomed into who I am as a person today.
That moment was a tipping point for me.
Instead of succumbing to failure and letting a single test define my value, I buckled down, put in the work and tried harder. I saw immediate results. The next test was a “B” and before long, I was earning “A’s” on a consistent basis. The small wins that followed helped me to build momentum that carried through to other classes, to athletics and to life in general. I embraced a growth mindset and it unlocked a potential and confidence inside of me that I so badly want to instill in others.
“Your life is the sum result of all the choices you make, both consciously and unconsciously. If you can control the process of choosing, you can take control of all aspects of your life. You can find the freedom that comes from being in charge of yourself.” Robert Bennett
In the most humble way possible, I feel like I need to share that since that infamous “D” in high school geometry [all the way through earning my doctorate] I never received anything less than a “B” and I’m proud of that. I’ve embraced the self-confidence that comes with consistent hard work, relentless pursuit, repeated failures and the absolute refusal to give up.
While this story is about my father, I need to acknowledge that through the years, both of my parents have pushed me to do what is hard, especially when I didn’t want to. I’ve become a stronger, more confident and more courageous person as a result. Thanks to my parents, I am at a place where I feel compelled to push myself and help others do the same.
I want to dedicate this post to my Dad.
I might not tell him every day, but he is my biggest role model. He epitomizes what hard work can get you. He acts with integrity and puts others above himself consistently. He leads by example in all that he does and I couldn’t ask for a better father. I hope that one day I can provide my future children with the same guidance, leadership, encouragement and love that he continues to give me to this day. Thank you Dad.
No matter who you are or what your circumstance, know that you too can do anything and everything that you set your mind to. If you don’t know where to start, go small; sometimes all it takes is a geometry problem. Don’t take no for an answer. Understand that you define you, not the outside world. Focus on what you can control: attitude and effort. Give your best effort always. In everything that you do, love others and be there for people.
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan
Failure can tear you down or build you up. What decides the outcome is what you decide. You can let failure crush your spirit and stop your efforts… or… you can view it as an opportunity to learn and a catalyst for growth.
“Every choice you make determines the standard you accept for your life.” Tony Robbins
The choice is yours.
Thank you so much for reading – I’ll be back soon!
Joe Rinaldi, DPT