No. 206



Several years ago I remember hearing the late Earl Nightingale quote a man by the name of P.G. Hammerton and he said, A strong life is like a ship of war. It has its place in the fleet and can share in its strength and discipline, but it can also go forth alone to the solitude of the infinite sea. Back then I made a note of this quotation and after reading it again, I made a cursory review of my resources but could not learn anything about P.G. Hammerton. What he said however, makes a world of sense when it comes to the challenges we face at various times during our lives.

There is a lot to be said for the strong disciplined person who can cope with life and rise above his or her circumstances to become a great success in their chosen field of endeavor. The question that keeps coming to my mind is how does a person become a strong disciplined person? Is this a quality they are born with or does he or she become that way over time because of the challenges and trials they face along the pathway of life? To my way of thinking it has to be the latter. I know many highly successful people whose children never amounted to much, at least by the worlds standards, and Ive also known many others who have far outdistanced their parents.

When it comes to a strong disciplined life, one quality you will always find is healthy self-esteem. As a real life example of this fact, here is a story that inspired me several years ago and it inspires me all over again each time I read it. It is a true story of a young lady by the name of Elaine Zayak. Elaine hails from the state of New Jersey and she represented the United States in the 1984 Winter Olympics in the former Yugoslavia. It came to light during the course of events that she was performing almost flawlessly as an Olympic ice skater, without the benefit of three toes on one foot.

Elaine Zayak slipped and fell under a running lawn mover when she was only two and half years of age, and the whirling blade severed three of her toes on one foot. She grew up with this handicap, but the thing that struck me, as one who tries to help people see their real potential, is what this unfortunate mishap did to her self-image.

She lived with the constant fear that she was less than a whole person. She was ashamed and embarrassed and went to great lengths to keep people from learning that she had this handicap. Im not sure how she got into ice skating but she struggled against all odds to become a success. During an interview, she said the turning point in her career and her life came when her boy friend learned that she had lost her toes and she found out that it didnt matter at all to him! He said, I love Elaine as a person and for what she is. The fact that she doesnt have all of one foot is not at all important to me.

When it was all said and done, Elaine Zayak finished sixth in the 1984 Winter Olympics, and she competed against the best skaters in the world. The thing that really came home to me is when she said, Im not a quitter!! Thanks Elaine, youve lifted my spirits; youve shown me and perhaps millions of others, that success is possible, regardless of the odds, if youre willing to hang in there when everything in you tells you to give up.

Now back to what I was saying earlier about a strong disciplined life. To be a truly successful person we need to be able to relate to other people, to be part of a group and make a real contribution. However, we also need to be able to persevere during those times when we are discouraged, lonely and feel that the whole world is against us. It takes a person with healthy self-esteem to do that. (Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)