You’ve all heard the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
I’ve got a better saying. When life gives you chocolate cake, be prepared to enjoy it to the utmost. Don’t think you don’t deserve it, because we all deserve to have good things happen to us. Grab the opportunity and run with it. I’ll give you two examples of people who did just that. Coincidentally, these are both running stories. Then I’ll tell you a story about what happened to me.
A few years ago a rabbit was hired by the Los Angeles Marathon. The job of the rabbit is to set a fast pace for the elite runners and then drop out after twelve or thirteen miles. The rabbit did the first part. He set a fast pace. After twelve or thirteen miles he looked around and found that the elite runners hadn’t kept up with him. They were nowhere in sight.
He had done his job and earned his money. He could have dropped out. Nobody ever heard of a rabbit winning a race. However, he sensed an opportunity so he kept running. The other runners never caught him. He won the race and the prize money and the car and the acclaim.
Here’s another example of someone who took advantage of an opportunity. When I was in seventh grade I was in a physical education class composed of fifty or sixty seventh and eighth grade boys. On this particular day the coach had us run around the entire athletic complex, consisting of separate fields for football, baseball, soccer and perhaps a few other things. It was a long run. The top twenty-five runners would score points for teams we were on.
The coach gave the fatties a handicap of thirty or forty yards. One boy he picked for the handicap, a fellow named Dick, was an eighth grader. I knew Dick played football with other eighth grade boys every afternoon, because I played nearby with the seventh grade boys. Dick was built like a barrel but he was fast and in terrific shape.
The coach lined the rest of us up well behind the fatties and blew his whistle to start everybody. Dick saw his opportunity and didn’t hesitate. He ran away from the pack and essentially disappeared. He went wire to wire in front and won easily.
Like everybody else, I have had opportunities presented to me. In the writing field, the biggest opportunity I’ve ever had occurred when I was in eighth grade and living near Buffalo, New York. My mother and grandmother were poets, and they had trained me in writing poetry.
A new high school was opening in the fall in our school district. All schools need an alma mater. The tune was that of the Cornell University alma mater, but it needed lyrics. The school officials held a contest and asked students to submit words for the song.
I entered the contest. Fortunately, I didn’t worry about whether I had an advantage over everybody else. My entry won. Not only did I receive the ten-dollar prize (a lot of money for a child in those days), I was elected president of the freshman class and my words had a page all to themselves in our senior-class yearbook. Sixty years later the school still has the same alma mater.
That success has influenced my whole life. When I went back to the school a few years ago to participate in some presentations during an assembly of all the students, the principal introduced me by talking about the imagery in the alma mater.
My advice is, be prepared to grab your opportunities. They will enrich your life.