By Gloria Nesloney
Determination is a characteristic that I live by. I remember wanting to try new things and learn because I wanted to, not because I had to. Even to this day, I continue my journey by trying new things or learning new skills I enjoy. I look forward to the euphoria I get when the interior light bulb goes on as I get an understanding or revelation. Challenging myself with skills and talents is where I become competitive with myself. As with every lesson learned, I self-assess to see if I have mastered the knowledge necessary for my success. It is for my good so that I can find my purpose and be steadfast in all of my decisions. Destiny happens to you through people who pave their way into your life through the good and bad times. I want to share how my determination shaped my future to defy gravity.
Engaging in athletic activities at a young age was not something I enjoyed. I needed to be more coordinated and more interested. Feats of agility or speed were not part of who I was or what I appreciated. Though I will cheer those into sports, I was better in the bleachers than on the field. During elementary school, I was trained to become a track runner. I enjoyed running but didn't like that it was work and not fun. So I needed to be more self-motivated, no matter how many coaches tried to tell me I was good at the sport. They had to say that to get me to be part of the activity, but it didn't resonate in my heart or mind. My body did not like it either. I felt like I was being forced to wake up earlier than everyone else, make trips to events, push myself to practice, and come home with some kind of prize for winning.
I applauded those who ran like the wind with little effort. The fastest runners would be on the winner's podium, while I was more enthused in congratulating them than competing with them. I came in third place once because only three were in a particular competition. I was not there to win. I was there to fill in a gap to make up part of the team. I did my best, which proved unsuccessful in that arena. That was the end of that future that someone else dreamed for me. I wasn't discouraged by my loss, it was a relief when I was not asked to run for sports, but I still run for fun.
Finding a direction to my purpose in life began in Junior High when extracurriculars were offered besides sports or band. I took the provided choir, computer, art, and typing classes. It was during these classes my motivation began to peak. I was interested in how my voice could be manipulated in ranges and octaves, making angelic sounds or like an instrument. My mind was stretched and curious, so I paid more attention to the lessons. Only a few students were interested in the new class offered when the syllabus mentioned the course required research and hands-on experiments to gain knowledge, utilize, and write custom software applicable codes for D.O.S. and B.A.S.I.C. Programming. (Disk Operating Systems and Beginner's All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) It was like I tapped into a whole new world when I was part of the first round of students to get into the class. My creativity began to explode when my art instructor would give a lesson or artistic concept, and I would find my empty canvas quickly come alive with colors, mediums, abstracts, and shades of indescribable design. My typing skills grew the longer I took the class, as most disciplined students did not look at a keyboard and practice daily. Though this was a direction to my purpose, there were other destinations. There was more.
Youth groups, student councils, and social activities increased my confidence to speak to my peers, lead meetings, keep order, hear the needs of others, and be involved in my community. This helped me overcome the fear of what is known as man's opinion. It's not that I didn't care about others' opinions. I just was fearless of what people had to say. This helped me listen more closely to what people were interested in and how I could help them find solutions or lead them to a resource where they could find answers. An example of how I could help someone having difficulty finding a solution to their problem was when I was at a school event. One morning, a student came up to me to tell me they were having an issue with another student. I asked if they had spoken to the other student yet. They said no and were so upset that they didn't want to ever talk to or see them again. They would have to eventually see or speak to the classmate because we still had several years of school together. Instead of calling parents or teachers to resolve this, I asked each of them to sit with me at lunch in the cafeteria. Neither of the two knew that I was setting them up to meet together. I was the mediator, helping them discuss the situation and potential solutions. It was a misunderstanding, and they resolved their issue before lunch ended. They had the answer within them. The classmates just needed a way to be heard and understood. I revisited the two students, and they were on speaking terms again. Sure, this was small stuff, but it could have turned to bitterness, anger, or a fight for an adolescent. I was determined to see them have peace because they were friends before the misunderstanding arose. I wanted them to listen to each other rather than live not knowing the truth.
Growing up in a small town gave me only a few options for increasing my fascination. I wasn't into watching television, but I loved reading books. Anthologies, self-help books, and the Bible were the books that opened my mind to go beyond the dusty outskirts of my hometown. Pictures from ancient lands or the vast expanse of space ran through my imagination as if I was there. Biographies, poetry, and classic epic stories kept me busy most of my youthful days. I decided that I was going to read the Bible during the summer right after I finished Junior High and started High School. Some parts of Scripture were too difficult to understand, but occasionally I found a short phrase that captured my attention. It was through the book of Proverbs that I started to understand how I should look at my life if I were ever going to be successful. "Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed." Proverbs 16:1 NLT
Raised in a poor family, success was not the vocabulary we used at home. As I went through High School with the ups and downs of trying to find my place in this world, I felt I lacked mentors or life coaches. I had great instructors who taught me subjects required for academics and were patient with me. There was this one teacher who was more than an educator. Something about the way she carried herself caught my interest. It was her poise, approach, concern, strength, and going above and beyond for every student in her class. She made each one feel heard. Mrs. Adami was my teacher for three High School classes. She encouraged us to write from our hearts. Our instructions were simple; they didn't have to be perfect. Instead, she wanted us to write down our feelings and thoughts and be creative with our words. When I was not feeling well and came to her class, she went to find out what was happening. On the surface, students put on a sad faces to make it look like they are under the weather. But Mrs. Adami had this instinct about her where she knew better. She would get to the root of the problem to discover students struggling with life. Mrs. Adami intervened for me on several occasions. She didn't sugarcoat or nurture with kindness; she led with truth and tenacity. At that time, that was precisely what I needed.
As I struggled, Mrs. Adami stepped up into my life as a mentor. She taught me, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." I could remember her standing straight and tall, pointing her finger to emphasize the tone of her voice, telling me, "You have so much potential, but you need to rise above the storms of life. Only you can do it; no one can do it for you. Give it your 100% umph." Then the shift came. I was no longer focusing on my problems. I was looking ahead for solutions. I was determined to make better choices and not make excuses. Umph is a sound someone makes when they have pushed with all their strength. No one had ever encouraged me that way before. Someone believed in me enough to tell me the truth that changed my destiny from staying grounded to a mediocre mindset to raising a standard of hope that ignited my umph. I was motivated to get my feet off the ground and try my wings in a new world of opportunities. I no longer saw closed doors, only ceilings with no roofs. The skies opened up, and the storm clouds gave way to my future.
"In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33 N.I.V. is a quote that helps me when I am overwhelmed with problems. Jesus was instructing his disciples that life was not going to be easy. They will have to go through some challenging times. Jesus left them with words of encouragement for those who believed. That is the same feeling I get when remembering those who shared life with me. I was not there with my mentors when they struggled, but they were there for me and taught me how to overcome whatever I was going through. I have had many who have influenced me in extraordinary ways that allowed me to change the trajectory of my life. Sometimes I had to "give it my 100% umph". Other times I had to be determined enough to glean from the lessons of life I learned.
Time could only tell of what was to become of me. I have learned from those who cared for me and helped direct me to lead by their example. I knew I would not teach someone what I was passionate about. I had to listen to each person and care about what motivated them. If it were my dream, I would try to make someone fulfill it, but it would be a disaster. I had to remember that I did not like being forced to run. I knew I did not pursue running if I wasn't interested. I followed virtue and wisdom from sages and learned from others who have overcome difficulties. Talent can be fun and enjoyed when not pressured to win. However, I saw that my competition was not against a world of athletes, experts, and prodigies. I competed against myself, and every time, I found that I was a winner.
When I stopped measuring up to what others' expectations were of me and started to balance who I was and what I wanted to become, I was a peace. I was the one who would put myself into a catapult to defy whatever or whoever tried to hold me back. I can see myself flying high. Something in me searches for others who want to defy gravity too. When I find those who need extra encouragement, I direct them to the resources that will get them one step closer to their full potential. Chances are after I have listened to them, they find they have the answer within themselves if they just have someone to hear them out.
There are fundamentals in leadership that one can learn from reading books. When accepted from the correct perspective, yielding instructions from others is beneficial in the long run. The real change is when the mindset has shifted. When one is no longer bound to a false belief that we are here to serve ourselves and our interests but to encourage others to reach higher heights, that is when success truly flourishes. Something happens in a person's soul when they see beyond what is in front of them and can see each gradual step moving forward and upward. I am thankful to Mrs. Adami, one of my influential leaders, and the many who took me under their wing, kept me motivated in my interests and helped me see the big picture. They found treasures in me and pulled them out for me. That treasure was a determination to make a difference by changing my attitude toward life.
Zig Ziglar, known for his straightforward approach to success in life, says, "For it is out of our souls that our attitude flows, and your attitude will determine your altitude in life. The depth of your spirit will determine the height of your success." and "You can have everything you want if you just help enough other people get what they want." I have adopted these quotes when I am determined to reach a particular goal in my life or help someone else out in theirs. I have an excerpt of my own in honor of those who led me through their influence, "If I defy gravity, it is because you gave me a reason to fly." Who would say that about me one day? How many would say that about you one day?
I still plan my day, but the Lord makes my plans succeed. I still suffer tribulations but have learned to accept them as a challenge and not consider them defeats. I give myself the grace to take the next step forward and upward. I determine what I want to achieve for the moment that will help me endure the heights of my imagination. My measure of success is how rich I am in my spirit. I am not a business entrepreneur or value things that the world does. I am a personal entrepreneur who cares to influence others through counseling, listening to them, and showing resolutions to their situation, guiding them to the truth. I value people, the souls that need attitude adjustments to stop being grounded in this world and be able to find their self-worth.
Skies the limit, defy gravity, and the world's problems will seem small—no need to fulfill someone else's vision of you. Look up. You determine the height of your success. May you be brave to ask a mentor to tell you the truth. Seek a life coach who will prepare you to give it your 100% umph. Someone will open the door of hope for your future. What is your destiny? You are destined to be a winner! Determination will get you the desired results.