Getting Over The Hurdles of Life
The Grand National Steeplechase (also known as The National) is a world-famous horse race that is held annually at Aintree Racecourse, near Liverpool, England. It is a handicap chase run over a distance of 4.5 miles, with horses jumping 32 fences over two circuits of Aintree’s National Course.
The steeplechase is the centerpiece of a three-day meeting, and it is the most valuable National Hunt in Britain.
Usually the first hurdle puts 25% of the participants out of the race; another group is eliminated at the second hurdle, and so on throughout the 32-hurdle race. The horses and riders train rigorously to develop strength and stamina for getting over the 32 hurdles.
About 60,000 people attend the race each year, and pay over $100 to attend. All sorts of handicaps are placed in the way to make this the most difficult steeplechase on the planet.
The horse never knows what to expect beyond the hedge since they can’t see what lies beyond. There may be a moat; there might even be fallen horses; they may even get crowded out by other horses. But, the horse and rider must successfully meet each situation they come to, and get over the obstacle and continue on with the race.
The gates, hedges and ditches the racers encounter during the race are flagged to provide them with difficult obstacles to be jumped along the way with posts and rails erected at the two points where they jump sometimes blindly. Can you imagine jumping blindly over an obstacle not knowing how or where you are going to land? Many people would not ever consider doing something like that. But my first question would be “where’s the fun in always knowing every step and move you are going to…or supposed to take?” To me that kind of lifestyle is just existing, and not really living…but that is just me.
The Aintree course has a reputation as the ultimate test of horse and jockey, and most of the starters fail to complete the race. Only a few horses and riders remain in the race towards the end, and the winner receives a substantial grand prize worth staying in the race for.
Life is very much like the Aintree Steeplechase, and if we have the right attitudes, life’s obstacles can be immensely exciting and motivating. The pathway of life contains many hurdles and opportunities, and can be an adventure that is both invigorating, and immensely frustrating at times.
Whether we like it or not, that is the program of life we all encounter, and the one who is planning the course of his or her life would do well to learn to appreciate the “hurdles” that we all encounter, and prepare for the time when we will run into them.
As someone once said, “The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but to the one who is still in there fighting at the end of the course.”
A motto carved in the Massachusetts School of the Blind says: “Obstacles are things to be overcome.” Obstacles make us think deeper, and show our true character…what we are made of. They also make us act more quickly, and make us prepare better. They are placed in our way to make us stronger and wiser.
“The successful man sees obstacles and turns them into opportunities. The unsuccessful man sees obstacles in his opportunities.” Brian Hazelgren (I had to throw that one in!)
The Hurdles of Life that we encounter make it possible for the strong, determined, persevering person to work his or her way up to the front.
It’s fascinating to see in any group of people how many quit at the first obstacle. Some stick to the job until the second of third hurdle, but only a few develop that quality of stick-to-itiveness and determination that guarantees they will be there at the end of the contest. The weakling focuses how difficult it is for them to find success, while the strong person like Job, says “Though he may slay me, yet will I trust in him….”
We should never be a dropout from finding success. Just like in the difficult Aintree Steeplechase, it’s not how many times we start, it’s how many times we finish what we started out to do. Any one can fall down and quit, and when discouragement arises most people want to quit and move on to something else. However, the winner is the one who takes all of this in stride, and knows that success is just around the corner.
Anybody can have a good record for a brief period of time, but it’s the true leader who keeps on month after month, year after year, taking all the hurdles, and challenges and setbacks in stride, and reaches that pinnacle of success more often that those who quit prematurely. This is what makes a successful life.
We would do well to remember that obstacles are placed in our path to help us grow, and to help us learn more about who we truly are. Many of have encountered obstacles multiple times over, and each time we come out of the challenge a better person, knowing more about what it takes to be successful.
No one ever learns horsemanship riding a tame horse. The skilled mariner does not become so by sailing on calm waters. It was the strong north winds that made the Vikings great. The captain of the football team doesn’t stand on the sidelines sending out signals for the players on the field to follow…they lead by example in practice; on the field during a game; and in life. It was adversity along the way and losing to our rival in high school that taught us to work harder and improve on our mistakes to win the state title. It’s not the path of least resistance that builds strength and power, and courage and initiative.
- We ask for strength and God gives us difficulties to make us strong.
- We pray for wisdom and God sends us problems, the solution of which develops wisdom;
- We plead for prosperity and God gives us brain and brawn to work;
- We ask for courage and God gives us dangers to overcome;
- We beg for favors and God gives us opportunities.
Overcoming our problems and challenges and discouragements is what builds strength. What if we were to take on a different attitude about the hurdles we in life and look at them as helpful benefits of great things we can learn? What if we kept our composure and met these hurdles with enthusiasm to be steady in our thinking, without overreacting and losing our minds…?
There is a story of a famous lecture on beans and walnuts that was delivered by Ralph Parlette. He would fill a large glass jar half full of beans and half full with walnuts. Then he would mix them up and shake the jar. The beans would quickly sink to the bottom of the jar, while the walnuts would rise to the top.
Then he would turn the jar upside down and do the same thing again by shaking the jar until the beans and the walnuts would react just as they had done before…beans to the bottom and walnuts to the top. The same bumps, the same jolts, the same relentless shaking that sent the beans to the bottom, and the walnuts rose to the top of the jar.
So we need to ask ourselves, are we are bean or are we a walnut? Some like a little work because it is easy, but the result is that they shrivel up to the size of the task of what they choose to do. Others like the big jobs, and the things that will stretch their skills, and they enthusiastically accept the challenge to make themselves strive for a successful life.
If we want a strong back, we should go out and get a bigger load to carry. It has been said that this is like striking a balance financially. If our income is less than our outgo, it is much better to increase our income than to decrease our outgo.
If we quit when it gets tough, and when things are not going as smoothly as we had anticipated, we will end up going down like the bean if we are not careful. However, if we learn from the shaking and jolting of life that we can develop the determination and skills to fight our way up to the top, we will be much happier.
Each of us has had setbacks, and will continue to have them. Someone once said that “It’s nothing against you to fall down flat, but to lie there is sure disgrace.” We need to have the courage to get back up when we get knocked down, and exercise a little faith, and a little wisdom, and get over that hurdle. These things are put in our paths to teach us how to get around the obstacle, and find success. We could look at this like “how do I turn this obstacle into an opportunity.”
Just like in the steeplechase race at Aintree, hurdles are placed in our path, and only those with perseverance and the fortitude to keep pushing forward learning from their mistakes and the mistakes of others, that we can make it to the finish line. But if the hurdles are good, and can teach us things along the way, we should accept them eagerly by running out to get over them!