Lessons from the Blue Highways Journey – Episode 7 – Determination

Time was fast approaching for Adam Steele’s annual blue highway journey. Unlike previous years, Adam wasn’t looking forward to taking a month away from his business. The latest product launch hadn’t gone well, and he felt taking a month away at this time would send the wrong signal. But he felt that a month away would be good for him. Previous blue highway journeys had been very insightful.

He decided to begin this journey on the blue highway leading to his boyhood hero. Jerry West had grown up in Cabin Creek, WV and went on to become a college All American, Olympic gold medalist, NBA player, and is the logo for the NBA. Yet his hometown offered very few amenities or future possibilities for its young people. As Adam traveled through the winding blue highway of Jerry West country, he wondered to himself about the determination that someone must have to rise from such a modest background to become one of the best of all times.

Continuing on his journey, Adam approached Talcott, WV. He was amazed to discover that this was the birthplace of The Legend of John Henry. He stopped to rediscover the legend that he remembered vaguely from his youth. John Henry was one of 800 men who were hired to dig the Great Bend Tunnel. John Henry and many of his co-workers were African American. John Henry, a steel driver, had his job threatened when the company bought a steel driving machine. John Henry felt that he could beat the machine in a contest. John Henry in fact was faster, but when the contest was over he died from exhaustion, as the legend was told. Adam again thought about determination wondering about the negative consequences of being too determined.

As Adam continued his journey he went to Clarksville, TN, home of Wilma Rudolph. Born prematurely, Wilma Rudolph was the 20th of 22 children. Growing up she suffered from pneumonia, scarlet fever, and polio. She had very limited medical care. She wore a leg brace until she was 12. But through sheer determination, Wilma went on to win 3 gold medals in track in the 1960 Olympics. Again, Adam thought about determination. What makes those who faced so many challenges become so determined? And why do some who have enjoyed privilege lives lack that same determination?

Adam returned home through Ohio. As he passed the Amish farms he again thought about determination. How do people maintain their faith when the world seems to be passing them by? How are faith and determination connected?

Adam didn’t have answers to any of the determination questions from his tour, but one thing became clear to him. The new product would be a success. Challenges would be confronted and overcome. Faith in their vision of the product must be sustained.

Determination is a personal trait that is molded through challenges. It is built from our self-image, the vision of our purpose, hard work, unremitting resilience, and faith. And more importantly, is a personal trait that inspires others.

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“Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe.
– Gail Devers (star track athlete)

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