Persistence can grind an iron beam into a needle. ~Chinese proverb
Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success. ~Napoleon Hill
“Go fly a kite” means something different in our family, because of a little … ahem … incident a few years ago.
Picture a gorgeous fall day. Robin’s egg blue sky, a chill to the air – and a nice steady breeze. Absolutely perfect for flying a kite.
And we happen to have a favorite place to go as a family to trounce around outside and get our daily allotment of fresh air: Cahokia Mounds, a completely under appreciated state historic site that boasts large earthen pyramids.
Yes, pyramids. In Illinois. It’s amazing.
Trails circle and wind through the mounds. Herds of deer watch cautiously as you pass through the woods that circle around the back of the park, along the vernal pond that was created when thousands of people carried tens of thousands of baskets of earth to the pyramids they were constructing… a thousand years ago.
But most of the park (at least, the pathed part) is an expansive yard-like meadow dotted with big old trees that yawn up to the sky.
It’s perfect for flying kites.
On this particular day we brought along a smallish plastic kite we’d gotten on a trip to Michigan. We never flew the thing at the beach as we’d planned – but we still wanted to get it up in the air, flimsy as it looked to be.
And so, after throwing down a blanket, up that kite went into the air.
Higher and higher, until pretty soon you could see some of the resident red-tailed hawks coming in closer for a look-see.
My husband was showing my son how to fly kites. My son was showing my husband that four-year-olds don’t always share their parents’ love of flying kites.
And I just sat around taking pictures of this and that.
Oh no oh no oh…! And the tell-tale fluttering flapping sound of cheap plastic.
I turned to see my husband standing, slack twine in his hand, looking up at a majestic tree … that had swallowed our kite whole.
That kite wasn’t just a little stuck. Oh, no. It was really stuck. They’d been flying the kite up high (so high!) that when the wind stopped suddenly, there was just too much slack to pull in… and now all that slack was in the tree.
All over in the tree.
That cheap dime store kite twine had wrapped around branches above, and branches below… there was twine all over in the canopy.
And to make matters worse, that kite wasn’t just really stuck. It was really stuck up really high. I mean, HIGH. Like, top of a three story building high. So high you couldn’t really see it all that well. (You can see just how massive the tree was in the featured image above. It’s hard to see me, but I’m in the lower-right hand side, looking up at where our kite was stuck.)
And so, there we were. With a decision.
Do we leave this black-and-white plastic kite in this gorgeous, ancient tree to flap its flimsy wings in the wind for all eternity?
I can get it down, I thought. There has to be a way to get it down.
My husband thought I was crazy. No way was that kite coming down, he said. And I figured yeah – he was probably right. But I had to try…
And so I started tugging this way and that, studying the direction the branches were growing; studying how the twine had fallen within them. I pulled a bit here. Nope. Wrong way. Okay, try down, then up. Closer. Okay, maybe down, then up, then over and then down again.
One bit came free.
On to the next tangle.
Again and again and again and again, the same thing. Study. Attempt. Revise approach. Try again.
My arms started shaking. (This was not a quick process.) But finally, I had untangled the twine bit by bit, leaf by leaf, branch by branch, and the only thing left to do was free the kite itself.
That wasn’t a sure thing, frankly, because I knew I was going to have to tug really, really hard to get that last bit free and it wasn’t the sturdiest kite twine in the first place.
I also knew that once that kite came free, it was going to tumble down out of the tree – and potentially get swallowed up by the branches below.
So … I got ready to run like hell.
Pull, yank. Down, then over. Puuullllll. Yank yank YANK – and suddenly it was free!
And I was running full-tilt toward an ancient pyramid flying a kite that by all rights should still be up in that tree.
I have no doubt that kite would be up in that tree today if I had listened to the voices in my head that told me the odds of success were low and the effort too high.
I have no doubt that kite would be up in that tree today if I had given up when my arms started to shake.
And I have no doubt that kite would be up in that tree today if I hadn’t planned out what to do when the kite broke free. If I hadn’t thought just a step or two ahead, I’d have gone through all that trouble … just to tangle that kite in the lower branches and land myself right back where I started.
Friend, we’ve been freeing a kite for three years.
Everything that we’ve done so far seemed impossible. And if we hadn’t tried, it would have been. I have no doubt that we’d be far worse off today if we had listened to the voices in our heads that told us the odds of success were too low and the effort was too high.
If we had listened to the friends or the family that said all this activist stuff was just a bit silly. Maybe a bit useless. Maybe not worth the effort.
If we had given up when our arms started to shake. (Who am I kidding – they’re still shaking.)
Now we’re down to the last few branches. It’s looking like we just might free that kite.
And we need to think through what we’ll do … when we do.
Because the worst thing we can do is to be so excited that we’ve freed the kite that we just let it drift into the branches below. And land us right … back … where … we … started.
It might seem strange to start considering what to do after 2020 when we’re not even into 2020 yet. But I think this is the perfect time to think of what happens – what we do, what you do – if we reach our goal 11 months from now.
So as you’re putting together your plans for the year, or dreaming about what the year will bring, give some thought to what happens if. What happens if all of our hard work pays off?
And then, when it happens, we’ll be ready.
Normally I say, let’s get to work. But this week, instead, I’ll say Happy New Year. Next week we’ll go back to having regular weekly actions. But this week, take time to reflect, to dream, and to plan.
See you in 2020.
P.S.: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.
If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!
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My deepest gratitude in advance.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I really do!) We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.