When did we drop the “yet?”

I spent a lunch hour this week with Kaya, a 2nd grader at Kenwood Leadership Academy. It was part of a program where F&M Bank matches female Kenwood students with female community leaders. The premise is simple and social, yet what I learned was profound.

After several knock-knock jokes (she’s got an amazing sense of humor!), Kaya was flipping through the pages of her Leadership Binder showing me all the things she has learned and done through the year. We stumbled upon one page that struck me and we spent half our lunch discussing it.

The page was titled “What Perseverance Means to Me.” Now remember, this is a second grader…sub 10 years old. I was stunned and proud that a school in my community was posing this question to such a young mind. I was even more proud of her answer: “Perseverance means I can’t do it…yet.”

Shoot! Was it really that easy? Had I overcomplicated what perseverance meant? I saved the word for heroic gestures. She narrated her story of perseverance through “trying, and trying, and trying to do cartwheels…until I did.”

Kaya’s reminder to me was that perseverance means knowing you can do something, you just haven’t been able to do it “yet.” Don’t give up after one or two tries. If you want to do it, you keep trying until you can.

Another lesson from Kaya:  She didn’t like Math. She didn’t like it, but she was good at it. When we looked at her worksheet that outlined what she wanted to work on this year and get better at, Math was at the top of the list. Reminder: she said she did well at Math she just didn’t like it.

I asked, “Why would you want to spend more time on Math when you are already good at it and you said don’t like it?” She maturely stated, “If I work on it more and practice more, maybe I’ll learn to like it.” I was immediately self-conscious. If I don’t like something, even if I’m good at it or there is good reason to keep doing it, I often use the discomfort as an excuse to quit.

This little human was willing to jump head first into the discomfort. Although she didn’t know it, she was projecting a lesson well beyond her years: Focusing on what was hard and uncomfortable would make her a better person.

Our adult egos often prevent us from pushing through discomfort or getting to the “yet.” We try once, maybe twice, and that’s it. We give up on our dreams, on our marriages, on our children, on life. This precious young girl reminded me of a life lesson that I hope the world doesn’t smother out of her like it has many adults.

If you want something, no matter how uncomfortable it gets, never lose your “yet!” 

Thank you to Kaya’s parents and teachers for creating space to allow her to be her best self and figure things out. At her young age she is already making a significant impact!

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