This was wisdom given to me by my very first mentor, my 11th-grade history teacher, Mr. Palmlis. We used to call him Mr. P.
Mr. P was a 40 something, average build, and height, German-American sporting a high and tight Marine style haircut. He would never miss an opportunity to instill wisdom into his students, whether you wanted to hear it or not!
Imagine; your thoughts were as Wind, your knowledge the sail, and you and I were merely vessels. Yes, as individuals we are all you unique and just as fragile as snowflakes, but look how strong we are when we stick together, “insert any sociopolitical movement in the last 100 years!” Similarly, like me, I am sure most of you know just how cold it can be when the wind blows during in an uphill battle. Therefore, I want to impart to you, the same wisdom my mentor gave to me.
“Nothin’ can make you a failure, without your consent!”
Tomorrow, as you pull your bootstrap and get ready to brave the cold and bitter reality that waits outside your door, dress appropriately. Nevertheless, do not be too concerned with the wind, for the same wind blows on us all. Besides, it is not the blowing of the wind but the setting of the sail that determines if we arrive at our destination (please refer to the analogy mentioned above regarding us merely being vessels with knowledge as our sail).
Question, can you remember when you were a teenager? Seriously, what kind of person were you then? Thinking back to when I was a teenager, my 11th grade school year is one of my best memories. It was not because I was an excellent student, I was a terrible student! In fact, I would take two lunch periods instead of one every day. Now I know what your thinking… No, it was not because I had a weight problem and couldn’t wait to eat. During the 2nd lunch period, I would skip my American History class to play cards with my friends. Until one faithful day, my history teacher, Mr. P tracked me down! He pulled me to the side and made me an offer I could not refuse. He said, “Quentien, I know you are smart, but you are wasting your potential, and you are failing my class, and “nothin’ can make you a failure without your consent! Since you like games, I am going to give you one shot to make it up! If you beat me in a game of chess before the end of the semester, I’ll give you an A!” I was like, “I do not know how to play chess, Mr. P!” He replied, “Don’t worry, I’ll teach ya, but I want you in class every day! That is the deal.” To which, I agreed. “
We played chess after class, every day. By playing Chess Mr. P taught me four principles:
1. Patience is a virtue
2. Be present in the moment and the mind
3. Positioning is as important as moving with purpose.
4. Nothin’ can make you a failure without your consent!
Enquiring minds may like to know. Did I ever beat Mr. P in chess? Absolutely, not! However, by the end of the semester, I passed his class with a B+. This was my first step in my leadership walk.
Confucius says, there is beauty in everything, but not everyone can see it! – At that moment, I learned Mr. P was a visionary and saw the potential for many things. What especially interesting are others usually see the potential in us before we see it in ourselves. This is a real beautiful thing.
I will NEVER minimize the complexities of my childhood but there is beauty in the struggle, and the world is full of opportunity. I firmly believe that because I am one generation removed, from the civil rights movement. I am a product of poverty and broken homes sullied in fragments of traditional family values, but I never have, given my consent to failure because my choices were difficult!
Conclusively, I would like to offer the following: “no matter what challenges you face, during your moments of struggle, I want to impress upon you to just apply the same principles I learned playing chess.