Monday Memories: Discovering Success

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This is a true story about one of my former students.  I was teaching at a high school in the Bitterroot Valley in western Montana.

A disgruntled John entered my classroom on the first day of school.  The senior was enrolled in an Accounting class with a room full of other seniors as well as a sprinkling of juniors.

As I was checking in later with each student, John bluntly told me, “I didn’t sign up for this class.”

I told John, “I am sorry to hear about this, but this class is a great one to take.  I am looking forward to having you as a student.”

John quickly replied back, “The counselor dumped me in here because I need the credit to graduate.”

John’s stubbornness left him with a poor attitude.  His first quarter grade was well below passing as he completed very little of the work.  He continued to balk as each new chapter showed up on the class syllabus.

I visited with John’s mother, and she was quite concerned.  She had her hands full with John’s noncompliant attitude as well.

An Accounting course works quite a bit like a math class.  As each week progresses, students continue to add more building blocks of skill and knowledge related to the previous chapter.  John was falling further and further behind.

During the second grading period, John began to show a tiny bit more interest in his performance.  After all, he needed to earn a passing grade by the end of the first semester in order to receive credit.

I was beginning to see John’s potential which had been buried under the “chip on his shoulder” about school in general.  Through it all, I could see that John was a sharp young man.  Therefore, we just needed to find more ways to unlock his potential.

As the semester ended, John squeaked by with a passing grade . . . just barely!

Quote from British writer, C. S. Lewis:  “The task of the modern educator is not to cut down the jungles, but to irrigate the deserts.”

I remained patient with John as the second semester began.  He seemed more eager to discover himself when he returned to school after Christmas break.  I continued to encourage him each day, and made an effort to touch base with him frequently.  As the next few weeks continued, we both began to build an improved relationship based upon trust and respect.

As the third grading period progressed, John began to see the light.  He was excited about class in ways I had never seen before.  There was a genuine enthusiasm in his work as well as his much improved attitude.  His failing marks were being replaced with A’s and B’s.

By the end of the third quarter, John was a solid “B” student in Accounting.  He pulled me aside and told me one day, “I am really enjoying your class.  In fact, I am thinking of taking business courses at college next year.”

He continued to excel and progress through the rest of the school year.  I visited with John’s mother before graduation, and she was very proud of her son’s progress.  He had matured beyond even her expectations.

In my short teaching career (I was in my fifth year), I had never witnessed such a turnaround as experienced by John.  It was amazing and very gratifying to see a student literally catch fire and take off.  At the end of the school year, John received my “Most Improved” award.  John encouraged me with his own discovery of success.

This story captures the essence of why I found countless rewards from teaching over my 40-year career.  I lost track of John long ago, but I feel assured his life turned out quite well.

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Originally published May, 2020.

Zig Ziglar Quotes

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There are no traffic jams on the extra mile.

Make today worth remembering.

Zig Ziglar (1926-2012) was an American author and motivational speaker.  He inspired many with his wit, optimism, and Christian faith.

Empty Inspiration

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Waiting for inspiration

Seeking life’s fresh, new start

Searching nighttime’s galaxy

Empty stars fall apart


Hiding from inspiration

Fearing each day’s setback

Sleeping until afternoon

Day’s journey stays off track


Breathing with inspiration

Shirking destiny’s call

Walking away once again

Ambition slows to crawl


Dreaming of inspiration

Waking to sunrise fog

Giving up another day

Hollow thoughts fill backlog


Starting with new attitude

Taking desired station

Leaving forever, life of . . .

Empty inspiration


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Anne Beiler Quotes

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Overcome yourself and you can overcome any obstacle.

Life is not about what you can accumulate.  I learned to live when I learned to give.

American entrepreneur, speaker, and author Anne Beiler (born 1949) is the founder of Auntie Anne’s Pretzels.  Her Christian witness is a major piece of her motivational speaking and writing ventures.

Motivational Words

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Martin Luther King, Jr.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.


Nadia Comaneci

I don’t run away from a challenge because I am afraid.  Instead, I run toward it because the only way to escape fear is to trample it beneath your feet.

Motivational Words

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The key word is “Accomplish.”


Abraham Lincoln

You be anything you want to be, do anything you set out to accomplish if you hold to that desire with singleness of purpose.

Muhammad Ali

He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.