“Give Me a Challenge, and I’ll Meet it with Joy”

22 Feb

Yesterday while doing some research at work for the space program, I found myself quoting the speech.  We all have one.  I was not alive to hear Martin Luther King Jr’s speech but it still stirs me.  There’s possibly nothing quite as moving as the Gettysburg Address.  But there is another speech, one I was alive for (if not old enough to fully appreciate), that has become a personal favorite.

Probably because it involves a president I love (Ronald Reagan).  A person my parents taught me about (Christa McAuliffe).  A speechwriter I find compelling (Peggy Noonan).  A program my current job is closely linked with (NASA).  And, as I learned yesterday, it is ranked as one of the ten best American political speeches of the 20th century. So at least I have good average taste.

Instead of a state of the Union address, Ronald Reagan has to speak about the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger.  Talk about a change in topic.

And I found myself quoting it yesterday. Not the ending, my favorite bit, where the poetry emerges: slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.

But the bit where Reagan said “they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, “Give me a challenge, and I’ll meet it with joy….the future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave…”

Yesterday, there were plenty of challenges – giving up the thought of running a marathon in March (can’t say I met that one with joy), receiving some nastymail from a particularly insensitive manager (joy? What’s that?), being told one thing and then another thing and then yelled at for not doing a third thing, having to pose for some photographs in our Media department.  Even my daily challenges – PT exercises and foam rolling and being gracious with incessant work questions – were not particularly met with joy.  And instead of being brave, I was irritated and sad.  I cried while biking home from the gym which, let’s be honest, is not at all as cleansing and wonderful as women swear it is and is also a potentially hazardous activity during rush-hour Boston traffic.

But I remember the newbie engineer from yesterday.  “I’m not sure how to do this” he said.  “Well, you’re going to need to ask your manager some questions.  Maybe find a mentor.  Make a doable plan.”  “It’s going to be challenging” he said.  “Yes, which is exactly what you need.  You aren’t in college anymore, it’s time to stretch yourself.  You’re being gifted with a challenge rather than another mundane routine task and you need to meet it with joy.  The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. You’re going to be fine.”

Routing for the new college grad while simultaneously meeting my own challenges with apathy and dread and bitterness.  Not such a great role model.  Today I am going to shut up and take my own advice.

Challenges, meet joy. Joy will be working alongside me today to assist you.  So be prepared – we are going to win.

Winning is everything.

(I mean, it’s not.  That’s the truth. But sometimes, it kinda is.)


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