Positive Thinking (Necessary but not Sufficient)

“AGAIN!” he yelled with spittle flying everywhere. The next four moved forward and lined up. The runner positioned himself and with the blow of the whistle he sprinted down the sideline and the four took chase.  We were doing the angle drill. It was early September in Cincinnati. Humidity was at a 100% and it was 90 – plus degrees.  It was the end of practice. We were exhausted. “AGAIN!” Bad angles were being chosen and too many were giving up their pursuit. “AGAIN!” My coach was red in the face incensed with anger. “AGAIN! AGAIN! AGAIN!”

My turn was coming.

However, before we get to that, let me give you a little background. I was a sophomore. I was immersed in a community and culture that revered football. I had been playing since I was in fourth grade. My only goal in life (yes, my only goal) was to make the Varsity squad. Varsity meant dressing Friday night under the lights. My only chance was to make the special teams. Yet, the depth chart and starting positions, which were revealed a week before, did not include my name. After two weeks of two-a-days, I was devastated.

It was all the more painful since I had done everything the book recommended. I thought positive thoughts. I envisioned my success. I repeated the mantra “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me” over and over and over again. Yes, I am talking about Norman Vincent Peal’s “The Power of Positive Thinking.” My dad had given it to me the summer before. It was one of his better book selections (the others included “How to Argue and Win Every Time” and “Lee Iacocca”).  I remember expressing complete disbelief in not making Varsity. I had done everything Norman told me to do. Norman said that if I do this, this and this then that would materialize. Norman had let me down. Norman was full of %#*!  Or, was he?

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“AGAIN!” Our coach was not going to stop. Those who had gone through the drill were bent over, looking to the sky for deep gulps of air and salvation, or simply collapsed on the ground. “We will continue this drill until someone does it right” he screamed.

My group stepped forward. I was positioned the farthest away from the runner – Dwayne Wysinger. Dwayne was one of the fastest guys on the team. The whistle blew. Dwayne shot down the sideline like a bullet. The four of us took chase choosing our angles along the way.

The first guy in my group missed the tag. The second guy in my group missed the tag. The third guy in my group missed the tag. I was the last one left and I was losing him. My angle was too shallow. I made an adjustment and kept going. Damn, Dwayne was fast. I had to adjust my angle again. I was only a few feet away. There were no more adjustments to be had and my angle was still too shallow. I had a choice: pull up and trot to defeat like everyone else or leap.

I leapt. I stretched out my arms, left my feet and dove.  I was not sure about what I was doing. I was not sure about the outcome. I was not sure about the landing. The only thing I was sure about was the need to leap. I skidded across the September-sun baked field devoid of any green and tore up my right knee. Before landing, however, I got a hand on the back of one of Dwayne Wysinger’s Nikes!

Coach Haag ended the drill and let us hit the showers. I patched up my knee (still have the scar that I cherish). The next day Coach announced, in front of the entire squad, that I was being placed on the kick-off team. I was the only sophomore to dress varsity that year.

So, was Norma full of %#*? I am not so sure. I think my interpretation of his work was incomplete. Positive thinking is necessary but not sufficient.  Positive action is the key. However, I will say this for Norman, maybe it was the positive thinking that allowed me to leap into positive action.

What do you think?

 

[bctt tweet=”I had a choice: pull up and trot to defeat like everyone else or leap. #HalftimeSpeeches”]

 

Shawn Humphrey, the Blue Collar Professor (@blucollarprof)
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