The Moment Arrives: Do You Take It Or Not?

Every individual has their moment of go or no go.

Here is a moment of no go in my life. It still annoys me to this day.

In 1961 high school and AAU competitive swimmers, who also surfed, were invited to try out to be lifeguards at Huntington Beach State Park. I was sixteen years old at the time, and had to make a decision to try out or not. I decided not to, because I wasn’t sure I could pass the running part of the test. Basically, the try outs comprise swimming 1000 yards, then 500 yards, then run/swim/run for 1500 yards, within a certain time limit.

Of course, I could pass the swimming part, but I wasn’t sure about the running part. I was a polio victim and one of my legs was weaker than the other. Because of that I was a slow runner when I was required to run long distances. I was invited a second time to try out. Again I declined.

Declining those two times was a big mistake. Ultimately, it’s not about making it or not making it. It’s about deciding to compete when an opportunity comes along. That’s what bothers me now about the lifeguard try out. So what if I would not have qualified. It’s not about qualifying that matters, it’s about trying, and finishing, and grinding through once you are trying to qualify.

In trying, you’re playing. Eventually, if you play enough, there will be victories. Recently, I asked my eleven year old granddaughter, who wants to be a high level tennis player, if she really wanted to be a tennis player. Her answered was a hesitant “yes”, not quite understanding why I asked the question. All I said in response was, “then play tennis.” I followed up with, “I don’t care if you win or lose, I only care that you play.”

Cuban World Chess Champion, Jose Raul Capablanca, was asked how many moves ahead did he plan. His reply was that he only planned the chess move he was making at the moment. He said he had played thousands of matches growing up, and that by the time he got into championship play, he had seen all the plays there were to see. As a result, he only had to know what the next move would be.

To me, life is about entering competition and playing and playing until you start winning. The more you play, the more you will find yourself in situations where you will win – sometimes at great surprise to you when it happens.

President Franklin Roosevelt was asked what if his program to end the Great Depression didn’t work. We’ll try another one he said. And we’ll keep trying until something works.

So, would I have qualified to be a Huntington Beach lifeguard? Yes, I would have worked until I did. I would have found a way. But the moment to do it came and went. For now, I will have to let that be a lesson learned.