by Bob Ashby, C.P.M., CPCM
University of Nevada,
Las Vegas (retired)
I recently read about a boy who was a born loser. He flunked every one of his eighth grade classes and most of his other classes in high school. He made the golf team but lost the important matches. He was lost in academics and sports but really liked to draw, so he submitted cartoons to be included in his high school yearbook—but they were all rejected. He then submitted a portfolio of drawings to Walt Disney Studios, and they rejected those, too. Each succeeding setback seemed to offer further proof that he was a loser.
But he didn’t give up. Instead, he decided to tell the world about his life and what it’s like to go through it as a loser. What better way, he thought, than through his cartoon drawings? He made his main character a little boy who symbolized the perpetual loser and underachiever. It was, after all, what he knew best.
What happened? People around the world excitedly accepted and sought out this lovable loser because it reminded them of painful and embarrassing moments from their own pasts. His character went on to be one of the most famous of all time: Good Ol’ Charlie Brown. Who was the boy whose many failures never stopped him from trying, whose work was unappreciated and rejected over and over? It was, of course, the iconic cartoonist Charles Shultz.
Charles, like all of us, faced difficulty and discouragement but he knew he had a choice in how he handled them. He knew that if he persisted, kept the faith, and kept developing the talent he knew was within him, he would reach his potential.
Although I never considered myself a loser, I remembered times I had to adjust my objectives to keep from being one.
My vision during my school days was 20-300, which meant that, for me to see what the person with perfect vision could see from 300 feet away, I had to get within 20 feet. I was blind as a bat! When playing baseball, my favorite sport, I couldn’t see the ball well enough to hit it. I couldn’t see a fly ball well enough to catch it. I realized there were only two reasons the coach would keep me on the team: hitting or pitching. So, I became a pitcher. I could see the catcher’s glove well enough, and I learned to throw a good curve ball and that meant I got to stay in the game.
This vision problem also evidenced itself while playing basketball, my second favorite sport. Poor eyesight meant poor depth-perception, which meant that, unless I was directly under the basket, the odds were that I wouldn’t make my shot. Once again, to keep from being banished from the sport I loved, I had to concentrate on the only two strengths that would convince the coach to keep me: scoring or rebounding. I became the best rebounder in the league.
And now my goal is to run the Boston Marathon. For this elite race, however, only those who can maintain a fast enough pace are allowed in. And I am simply not that fast. What to do? Since I know that a very small number of slots are allotted to charities for fundraising purposes, and since I am a three-time cancer survivor who regularly runs races for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), I asked to be given one of those slots.
I will run the Boston Marathon in 2018!
Bottom line? There are no losers—some winners just take longer to develop.
What is it that you can’t do? Are you a Charles Shultz who has tremendous talent that just hasn’t been recognized yet? Or are you a Bob Ashby who has to find a Plan B?
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s figure out how you can accomplish the goals that some folks think you can’t.
Bob Ashby, C.P.M., CPCM, is retired from his position as Director of Purchasing and Contracts for the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where he also served as an Adjunct Professor in the Management Department. Bob has been active in NAEP since 1997. In 2006 he received NAEP’s Distinguished Service Award and in 2008 he won the Mentor of the Year Award. In 2009 NAEP renamed the award in his honor to the Bob Ashby Mentor of the Year Award.