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The virtue of delayed satisfaction

The Optimistic Curmudgeon

In another part of my life, I serve as a referee for youth basketball, track and cross-country contests. Most of the teams I work have middle school athletes, many of whom are learning the finer points of the sport. I enjoy continuing to be involved in these sports and I get some good exercise in the process.

When I blow my whistle to call a foul or a violation, I see all kinds of reactions. Some are certain I was wrong. Some didn’t even know about the rule they violated. Others accept the verdict (which is not going to change anyway) and move on to the next play. These players are usually the ones who improve their games as the season goes along.

Life has some important parallels to sport. Rarely do all plans work out. We humans have our failures and disappointments. Progress is hard if these experiences stop us in our tracks. The history books and biographies are filled with stories of those who failed many times before the successes they became known for. Thomas Edison failed hundreds of times before finding the right combination of materials to make a light bulb. Abraham Lincoln lost more elections than he won before becoming president.

One of the most painful tasks I carried out was when I was managing a group of information technology specialists in a bank that was purchased. Since the bank doing the purchasing already had people performing most of these technical functions, only a few people were offered the chance to stay on. It was my job to tell eighty people when their jobs would be ending.

After the initial shock, people began searching for new work. A few had trouble seeing themselves doing anything different from their current jobs. They had the most difficult transitions.

I was happy to learn almost all others found jobs that they liked, many at increased levels of pay and responsibility. These people were able to take an unexpected and unwanted change in their lives and use it as a springboard for something better. They had turned the sour lemons into lemonade.

Not all these successful people were optimists. Some had to “Fake it ‘til you make it.” That’s where most of us find ourselves at times. The ability to keep moving on even when we don’t feel like it is a necessary skill for success.

I’ll end this column with a commercial for sports officials. The IHSAA is looking for new officials to sign up to eventually replace those of us who have quite a few miles on our tires. If you are interested, please visit the IHSAA web site or send me an email and I can get you connected.

I wish you the best as you confront your individual challenges. I hope you have friends and family to help you keep moving to a new level of success.

Rick Whitener has worked in information technology and banking. He has a degree in economics from Davidson College. He grew up a Tar Heel and has been a Hoosier since 1977. Contact him at rick.curmudgeon@gmail.com.