Head First

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I stepped up to the edge and looked down. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath... and jumped in head first.

The summer I turned 13 was spent at the swimming pool. We swam at a huge olympic size pool with three diving boards at one end, two low dives and one high dive.

I had bragged to my friends that I could execute the perfect swan dive off the high board. Eventually, I was challenged to prove it. No problem. I believed that I could. In my imagination, I saw myself walking to the edge of the board and launching! I believed I could that is until I began to climb the ladder. At the top I realized I had gotten into more than I could just jump out of. It was a lot farther looking down than looking up. I started to back out, but the next kid in line was at the top of the ladder yelling, "It's my turn!"

I heard the sound of other kids playing safely at ground level. I looked and saw the mocking smiles on the faces of my friends. I took a deep breath and dredged up my courage and jumped in head first.

For a moment, my dive was perfect. Then my feet flipped over my head and I landed with a terrific force in the most awful belly flop you could imagine. The wind was knocked out of me so badly I thought the lifeguard would have to fish me out.

I failed miserably, but I learned something. I learned to keep my big mouth shut. I also learned that sometimes the best way to reach your goals is to jump in head first. I have since learned that when you do accomplish your goals, your successes will affect many lives other than your own.

I read about a head firster recently. Anne and her brother Jim were a brother and sister with big problems. their mother died when they were young. Their alcoholic dad just disappeared. Anne legally blind, was only able to make out blurry shapes. Jim had a tubercular hip and walked with crutches. No one knew what to do with them so they were disposed of at the poorhouse in Tewksbury Massachusetts.

The Tewksbury poorhouse was a repository for human refuse. All the people that society did not have a place for ended up in places like this.

A living nightmare, Tewksbury housed children with the insane, the healthy with the contagious. The food was always bad, often rotten. At night, The rats were in charge.

Anne insisted that she and Jim be together. A wish that was honored until Jim died suddenly in the night. Anne was all alone now. Afraid but sure she could do better.

Her chance for escape came when an investigative committee came to tour the Tewksbury facility in response to rumors of ill treatment and misconduct.

This committee was led by Frank Sanborn. Anne knew that Sanborn could get her out of Tewksbury, if she could just get his attention.

Anne followed the investigators from room to room trying to discern which of them was Sanborn. When the committee ended their tour and was about to leave, Anne still had not identified Sanborn.

Anne literally jumped in head first. She dove into the midst of the entire committee. grabbing hold of skirt hems and pant legs, she pleaded - "I don't belong here! I want to go to school!".

Anne's plea did get Sanborn's attention. He helped her get out of Tewksbury and into school. 6 years later at the age of 20, Anne graduated from the Perkins School for the blind as the valedictorian of her class. She even received surgery to correct her eyesight.

This could be the end of a happy story, but Anne's successes extend far beyond her own life. Anne's habit of jumping in head first was about to help someone else.

Anne received a call requesting that she become the private teacher to a difficult student. She had become quite an innovative educational theorist. Now it was time to exercise her theory's in real life.

When Anne arrived at the home of her new student, she saw that she did have an incredible challenge before her. As usual, Anne dove in. Working with her new student day and night she was able to pierce the darkness and break through the silence that had held her pupil captive.

The teacher, Annie Sullivan was able to finally reach through and communicate with her student, Helen Keller.

When it is time for you to reach for your dreams, close your eyes, take a deep breath... and jump in head first.

Steve Brummet is a communication expert, writer and speaker who works with all types of organizations to increase understanding of communication styles.

Better communication can help you and your organization reduce stress and increase productivity. For more information on one of our workshops, please feel free to call or write.


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