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I love John Steinbeck's books. I've reread them many times since my childhood. I was lucky to be introduced to
Steinbeck's work before I was forced to read it in high school; otherwise, I'd probably hate his writing as much
as I hate all the other books that I studied in school.
But there I go, off on a tangent again.
In The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck points out that people who have known struggle survive hard times better and thrive in good times. He suggests that experiencing hardship provides a key—a level of grit, if you will—that enables people to grow exponentially once the hardship has been removed because they apply the lessons they learned to the new, positive situation. In other words, when people overcome a challenge, they often learn how to achieve a better outcome.
Twenty years ago, when my life came crashing down after my company eliminated my high-level position, I felt sorry for myself, as most people would. But my best friend Leslie dragged me to a medical supply shop owned by her aunt. A nurse by trade, this battle-axe aunt had become frustrated with the poor-quality medical equipment her geriatric patients received and opened her own shop to provide supplies that met her exacting standards.
Despite her extensive medical training, her business knowledge was nonexistent. Sample equipment loitered haphazardly wherever space was available. A dusty oxygen cylinder sat stolidly in the window display, as if this lone sentinel could entice potential customers to push open the uninspiring glass door and experience the wondrous freedom awaiting within. The store was located on a side street with little traffic. This shop had as much chance of success as I had of maintaining my extravagant lifestyle without income.
Yet, my attention was grabbed by an antique wheelchair. This ancient contraption seemed to speak to me of circumstances far worse than my own. At the time, I needed a reminder that the bottom could always be lower.
Leslie asked her aunt to hire me, but that stalwart lady told her that she preferred to hire someone with medical experience, not to mention more style. She looked me up and down, likely judging my sweats and sneakers, and finally decided to direct all her comments to Leslie. It was as if I were not standing in front of her, as if she were explaining to a nonresponsive patient's family what was necessary for their relative's well-being. Leslie, always my biggest supporter, was adamant. She explained that I had grown up in a family of nurses, that I had been pre-med in college myself, and that I would not be intimidated by medical jargon. I also knew marketing, I interjected, and would love to help her bring in more business. She thought it over briefly and then decided (telling Leslie instead of me) that she would hire me temporarily until she found someone with better qualifications.
What I didn't know at the time was that the first person she hired, a young man with a nursing degree, had found being on his feet for eight hours a day and lugging equipment back and forth to be too much manual labor. He left without giving notice. The second person she hired, a woman who had been a nursing assistant for several years, had a great deal of trouble showing up for work consistently.
If either of these two medical professionals had a better work ethic, my life would have taken a different path. I didn't realize how my work habits guided my fate until a few years ago when the aunt happened to mention it. She had not believed for one second that I would last in the position. She claimed my success was due to her excellent training.
I worked for the high-standards healer for twenty years while the business increased eight-fold, thanks to my marketing expertise. It just goes to show that success is possible when difficulties can be overcome.
|adamant||very determined; not giving in|
|entice||attract by inspiring hope or desire|
|exacting||requiring careful attention and precision|
|exponentially||increasing very quickly|
|extravagant||spending much more than necessary|
|grit||courage in the face of hardship or danger|
|haphazardly||having no plan, order, or direction|
|immobility||state of not moving or being unable to move|
|interjected||interrupted what someone else was saying with a comment|
|loitered||remained in an area for no obvious reason|
|notice||statement that an agreement or job will end at a specified time|
|sentinel||person or thing that watches or stands as if watching|
|stalwart||very loyal and dedicated|
|stolidly||in a way that shows little or no emotion|
|stringent||very strict or severe|
|tangent||abrupt change of topic|
|thrive||grow or develop successfully|