If I Can, You Can – Accepting Challenges

As a kid, I had a bad habit of ripping off my fingernails.  I would start with a hangnail but usually I would work on a jagged edge until I could get a hold on it and then just rip it off.  It was a nervous habit.  I was always picking at my nails and my parents repeatedly told me to quit.  Why did I develop this habit?  I don’t know and would probably have to go through psychoanalysis to find out.  Not worth it.  It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I challenged myself to quit.  And I did.  At some point, I challenged myself with minor goals.  I thought that if I could accomplish these goals, I could do anything.

After I conquered the nail-ripping-habit, I knew I could quit smoking.  It was 1973.  I had smoked since I was a sophomore in high school, and smoked at least a pack a day.  It was a nasty habit.  I would wake in the middle of the night just to have a cigarette, and that’s the first thing I would grab upon awakening each morning.  Smoking affected my weight…  at that time, I was a mere 120 pounds.  Once I accepted my self-imposed challenge, I quit “cold turkey.”  Actually, I have to admit that I did not have even one quarter to buy a pack.  I had to quit, and it was not easy.  But I persevered.  I developed restless leg syndrome and my legs ached painfully.  You know how people say, “Oh, food tasted differently?”  I don’t remember experiencing that.  During that first year of snuffing out that last butt, I gained about forty pounds. A nice benefit.  After some time, I smoked a cigarette and my reaction was “What did I ever see in this?”

Now, I was ready to tackle the World.  I had been an unhappy teacher for some time.  I was only earning $13,000 annually after having taught for thirteen years.  I could see a bleak future.  I had always wanted to be a professional singer.  That’s another story, but I had to try.  From there, I applied with a major transportation company.  To be hired for a ground-level administrative position, I had to pass a typing and shorthand test.  Typing was a breeze, but shorthand?  I had two weeks to learn it and had to pass a test at 90 words per minute.  I made it.  I applied myself and advanced from a clerk, to a secretary and then to a management position.  In the final years of my career, I had a nine-state territory.  I flew somewhere almost every week.

Wait!  I had some intermediary challenges.  I was forced to give presentations within the company as well as to the public.  I was a horrid public speaker, but I joined Toastmasters and not only became a proficient speaker but also an accomplished trainer.  Having overcome my weaknesses was very satisfying.

Fast forward to 2006.  I suffered two heart attacks and two strokes.  The nature of my challenges changed.  I was dizzy 24/7 from August until December.  I walked with a cane during that time and when I did I was taking baby steps.  I took physical therapy and speech therapy.  The most difficult challenge was overcoming depression.  My youngest son encouraged me to “take up my brushes and once again paint.”  I did, and I have been painting over ten years now and consider myself a professional painter.

Have I completed all of my challenges?  I hope not.  Recently, I had open-heart surgery and all the resulting challenges.  My latest is writing this blog and also writing a newsletter.  I want to build my email list Studio News.  I go to the gym six days a week.  The list of challenges gets longer.

The take away for you… it’s in the title of this post.  “If I Can, You Can.”  Start with a small challenge.  It will give you confidence to move on to a more difficult one.  You will eventually become the person you were always meant to be.

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Author: Jerry Hardesty Studio

I am an Abstract Expressionist Painter, living in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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