The 13th Step

Joseph - Indianola, Iowa
Entered on January 19, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30

I cannot say my sister and I have always gotten along. Our childhood was marred with petty arguments, name calling and the occasional physical altercation usually stemming from an issue related to what was and wasn’t fair. But on rare occasions, when we were void of the watchful eyes of our parents, we could come together for a short time to agree on one thing: a stair jumping competition. There was a loose set of rules for this competition, but the main stipulation was that the person who could successfully land a jump from the highest stair leading from our ground floor to our upstairs would be the winner.

Having previously mentioned my sister and I’s occasional disdain for each other, it goes without saying that losing this competition to my sister was never an option. One evening, after she completed a particularly impressive jump, I decided I would take our little competition to the next level and attempt a jump from the 13th step, two steps higher than had ever been successfully jumped. I surveyed my surroundings, and concluded that a jump of this magnitude would take an unprecedented leg coil and arm thrust. While I knew this jump would be difficult, my confidence that I would land the jump never waivered. But just as fast as I had exploded off the stairs, I was brought back down to the ground in a heap. In surveying this jump, I had forgotten to factor in the oak overhang and as soon as my feet left the stair my forehead met this overhang, sending my young, concussed body tumbling to the foot of the stairs.

When revisiting this memory, it would be easy for me to chalk this occurrence up to boyish bravado. But as I look at the character traits that define me as an adult, I think that this painful mistake is telling of one of my core beliefs: the importance of never selling yourself short. In a world based on achievement and success, it is easy for one to set goals and standards low in order to make success more easily achievable. Fear of failure cripples the potential of many, and I have always believed that I would rather try my hardest and fail at a difficult task than experience success in something trivial.

As I look to the future, I know the lesson I learned that night will stick with me. You can never be certain of the vastness of your capabilities unless you are able to push yourself. I firmly believe that success is a mixture of a belief in your abilities, strong will power, and a blatant refusal to sell yourself short. While much has changed since that night, my confidence and the high goals I set for myself has not. Selling myself short was never an option that particular night, and continues to not be an option as I go forth with my life.