What it Takes

February 26, 2010

A strong positive mental attitude will create more miracles than any wonder drug.  –Patricia Neal

For years my daughter skied, and loved it. Then she began to race and loved it even more.

On training days Ellie would fall, get up, and do it all over again. Her hair would poke stiffly from her helmet as icicles formed. While other kids complained of bitter cold and white-out conditions, she’d persevere. Ellie didn’t win much, but she’d give it her best and smile while doing it.

Over the last year or two, Ellie’s determination, mental attitude, and hard work began to change her skiing. Watching my daughter has inspired me. Hard work is hard. People talk a lot about it. But doing it is something else entirely.

Speeding down a mountain with nothing but a helmet to protect her, makes Ellie’s work not only hard, but dangerous. Depending on the day she must endure wicked temperatures, blazing sun, or heavy snow. She sacrifices things other 12-year-olds take for granted. If she’s not at school, she’s on the hill. Exhausted, she gets up at the crack of dawn to do it all again. That’s the kind of passion and perseverance to make miracles happen.

Just last week Ellie qualified for the Junior Olympics.



  1. Wonderful post. Tenacity is underrated. I don’t know whether you can teach it or whether it is just there in some kids who are lucky enough to be introduced to what they love.

    In The Outliers, a newish book by Malcom Gladwell, we see that Bill Gates and the Beatles as well as many sports figures and other names you would recognize worked on their projects for 10,000 hours, sneaking out early and late to practice. But it wasn’t child abuse. It was something they felt driven to do. Of course world wide success or renown aren’t and shouldn’t be the healthy motivation. It’s something inside the person.

    Lucky are the people who are guided into or are given the opportunity to discover something they love.

    We have a neighbor kid who wasn’t the best dancer on the block when he was little, but everyone could see that he loved it. He is now one of the happiest and most sought-after twenty-something professional dancers in the nation. We also know a kid who wasn’t the best at piano playing–our daughter played the same songs and got the blue ribbons in competitions. We could see the difference, though. Our daughter did what she was supposed to do, and she did it well, but she couldn’t wait to get off that bench after a performance when she was little. But everyone could see that the kid who now plays professionally just loved it. He was proud of playing well and couldn’t wait to learn the next piece. His playing now brings tears to half the audience’s eyes, and he makes a good second living playing in a band and in a big-city symphony.

    In case our adult daughter reads this, I must say that she’s the most tenacious person we know, but she uses her talent where her true spirit lies–in business and in dealing with people fairly. Lucky her to have found what feeds her spirit.

    Lucky for your young daughter that she will have happy memories of doing something she loved in her childhood with a parent who recognized her true spirit. Where it leads is where it leads, but it is hers to keep.

  2. Good for her… Love to see determination and hard work pay off!

  3. Congratulations to Ellie — and to you, Mom. You’re doing what good parents are supposed to do: help their kids achieve their dreams. Good luck to Ellie at the Jr Olympics!

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