Potty Talk

Note: This is not a post about bad language; it’s about negative (and positive) self-talk…so, I guess it is about bad language. Seriously, this is a post about hope and self-respect.

Note 2: To accommodate military operations in hostile foreign lands and under austere conditions, the U.S. brought in facilities … commodes, the ol’ Port-a-John.  The writing below was one I jotted down while operating in Iraq several years ago.

I try to always avoid reading the writings—or looking at the drawings—on the port-a-john walls, but I could not help but see one statement. It was the only thing written there. Someone had written: “Robertson tries but never succeeds.”

That’s not your usual potty-talk statement, if you will please forgive me for the scatological reference. 

Anyway, it caused me some serious reflection.

I don’t know any soldier or NCO named Robertson, but I immediately began feeling a little sorry for him, and even more so for the poor soul who took the time to write ill of him—especially in such a place like a plastic outhouse in the middle of the desert!

Two things came to mind when I read that, and both impressions came from the inspiring life of Abraham Lincoln, one of my favorite past presidents.

It is said that ‘Honest Abe’ at one time expressed, “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt.” As worthless as this Robertson character may have appeared to the graffiti artist, there are some serious concerns over the wit of him who took the time to write it.

The second thing I thought of, as mentioned, also had to do with Lincoln. He failed multiple times in business. He failed more times than he won running for public office … but he never quit. When he ran for president, he was almost destined to lose. He was no shining star on the political horizon, but he didn’t give up. Tenacity could have been his middle name.

As we gaze through the portals of history we learn that some of the greatest leaders, inventors, musicians and sports figures overcame great odds to succeed. And what was the secret of their success? More often than not it was the will to keep trying—to never, ever give up, to paraphrase Winston Churchill.

I recently read about an award-winning concert pianist from South Korea who only has four fingers—two on each hand. I quickly made a mental comparison to Beethoven’s own physical defect: deafness.

As I thought about this Robertson person, I recalled Babe Ruth’s plight. While he led the league in home runs, he also held the record for the most strikeouts. I thought of Thomas Edison who failed hundreds, if not a thousand or more times, before he finally invented the incandescent light bulb. And who can forget the scientist and physician, Paul Ehrlich, who finally found the cure for syphilis? It was called 606 because that’s how many times he failed before finally getting it right.

“Robertson tries but never succeeds” is actually more of a compliment when viewed from that perspective. I shouldn’t have felt sorry for him at all. The ridicule and pessimistic speech from the mouths and minds (or ink pens) of naysayers and imps, who have nothing better to do with their time, will never go down in history books as great. But those who keep trying despite the odds and despite the pressure of others telling them to give up or to quit because their dreams are impossible, can indeed defy the odds.

As human beings we only have one of two choices: we can try, try again, or we can quit.

I’ll never forget the many times getting bucked off spirited horses as a young boy. My dad taught me a great lesson then that has lasted a lifetime. He said, “Jeffrey, don’t let that horse win, and don’t let him sense your fear.” He’d encourage me to brush off the dust, grab my hat and get right back on. And I did … every time. In time, I even rode sinewy stallions with great confidence.

So don’t you ever quit Robertson.

While there might be a few calling for your resignation on personal or professional projects, or on life itself, there are more who really want to see you succeed, and I’m one of them. Dust yourself off, and try, try again.

Jeffrey Denning

Jeffrey has written award-winning articles for the Washington Times, Guns.com, and other publications. He is the author of seven books, including Warrior SOS: Military Veterans’ Stories of Faith, Emotional Survival and Living with PTSD. He teaches courses on peer support, suicide prevention, and other mental wellness and resilience to public safety professionals. If you would like Jeff to speak at your event or training please contact him HERE.

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