By Jim Power
Next to the local gymnasium, there is a billboard featuring an impeccably toned torso with the caption, “There are some things Santa can’t give you.” (I’d like you to think that I was the featured model, but even if you believe in Santa and the Tooth Fairy, that might be a bridge too far!)
The advertisement underlines a most basic premise: the cause and effect of life. If you want to get in top physical condition, you have to work at it. Good intentions just aren’t enough.
A few years ago, I coached a UCC basketball team, and we were chock full of talented players: we could dribble, pass, shoot, and run with the best of them. The one thing that we couldn’t do, though, (and I confess I couldn’t figure out how to coach this) was dive for loose balls. We played hard, but we just weren’t inclined to “bite the wood.”
The problem with a loose ball is that you can’t send your best buddy, your nanny, or even Uncle Charlie in to get it for you. You have to leave your feet. You have to do it instinctively. And you have to do it yourself.
What prompts a sane person to dive on an unforgiving slab of hardwood in order to grab a leather ball? It has to take more than just desire, because a lot of folks would like to have the ball. No, what makes someone leave his feet is the combination of passion and will.
Before my wife and I were married, we attended a retreat, and I can remember only one piece of advice from that event three decades ago: “Marriage is a decision of the mind, and a commitment of the will.” (An aside: There have been plenty of times when my wife has given me a look that suggests, “This is definitely a ‘commitment of the will’ kind of day for me.” And all I can say is that I’m glad she attended that retreat!)
UCC’s motto, “Let he who merited the palm bear it” taps into the importance of the power of will, and emphasizes the necessity of digging deep within yourself to do the task at hand, regardless of the odds or risk – to follow Nike’s advice and “Just Do It!”
No, life isn’t always fair. Effort doesn’t come with a 100 per cent money back guarantee. Sometimes you’ll work hard and not attain a desired result. In general, though, effort extended through a distance is the best way to merit the palm, and it’s the only way to get a loose ball.
Appointed in 2004, Dr. Jim Power is the 18th Principal at Upper Canada College, a leading independent boys school in Toronto. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pa., he has a Bachelor’s degree in English from College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, a Master’s degree in the Art of Teaching from Boston College, and an Ed.D in Educational Leadership from Boston University. He also attended Columbia University on a Klingenstein Visiting Heads Fellowship. Dr. Power started his career in independent schools in New England and taught at both the elementary and high school levels. For 11 years — and preceding his move to UCC and to Canada — he was Head of Georgetown Preparatory School, a boys’ school in North Bethesda, Md.