CJ's Secret to Success: Courage in the Face of Disappointment

Will Newman

I got some great news about my friend CJ from his father last week.

CJ finally achieved a goal he's been pursuing for four years. This might not seem like a long time, but it is if you start the pursuit when you're 16.

To achieve his success, CJ had to show remarkable tenacity, determination, and persistence — qualities we've been discussing our past three articles.

(If you missed those discussions of reinventing yourself, click here, here, and here.)

Let me tell you CJ's story.

I started tutoring CJ in math when he was in 8th grade and continued working with him through his high school years.

Now, let me start by telling you CJ is an athlete. A good one. He starred on his high school 8-man football team (tackling men 100 pounds bigger than his 135 pounds). He played basketball. And he wrestled for eight years. Sports are huge in his life.

But where physical things come easily to CJ, school stuff doesn’t. In fact, CJ has significant learning disabilities. He’s smart, but academics don’t come easily.

That’s why CJ has a valuable lesson for us all.

One day when CJ was in 8th grade, he was doing a problem he hadn’t been assigned. I called his attention to this. I thought with his learning disabilities, he might have gotten confused. When I mentioned this to him, CJ looked at me and said:

“Math’s pretty hard for me. I need the practice.” That’s all. It made an impression.

Another time, he hadn’t finished his math assignment during our study time. He asked if I could help him during recess. Now, this isn’t such an unusual thing for a 13-year-old to ask. What is unusual is this. When recess rolled around, I asked if he still wanted to stay in and work with me. He immediately said, “yes.”

This from a kid who loved recess, who’s popular with his classmates, and who’d rather toss a ball around than do almost anything else.

I told CJ’s father about these incidents. He told me this wasn’t unusual for CJ. According to his dad, CJ practices more than his teammates. He frequently did his sisters’ chores. And he always pushes himself just a little bit further.

Before graduating 8th grade, CJ announced a goal for high school was to get a 4.0 grade point average. He did it, twice. And you know he had to work his tail off to get it.

In high school, CJ prepared for his ultimate goal: To be an officer in the military. He started by taking the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) his junior year.

His first time taking the ASVAB, he didn't pass the math section. I worked with him steadily over the next two years, but math proved to be his bugaboo.

In college, CJ enrolled in ROTC and continued taking the ASVAB as often as allowed. A lesser person might've given up.

The good news I received from CJ's father last week was that CJ finally passed the entire ASVAB … his math score 10 points higher than the goal he had for it.

Regardless of what CJ decides to do in his life, he’ll be a success. Why? Because of his tenacity, determination, persistence … and courage in the face of disappointment. Disappointment, but never defeat.

When you're pursuing the writer's life — reinventing yourself for a better future — remember CJ. You might not remember his name. But I hope you’ll remember the lesson of courage he can teach us all.

I hope to see you back here tomorrow. Master Copywriter Nick Usborne is going to tell us about an ideal way to get started on reinventing yourself … right now.

Until then, I'd love to hear if you know of someone like CJ who has inspired you with their persistence. Comment below to let us know.

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Published: June 2, 2016

11 Responses to “CJ's Secret to Success: Courage in the Face of Disappointment”

  1. Hi Will,Your story today about CJ reminded me of my daughter who started riding horses at the advanced age of 14, years after other kids had started. She trained every day, even when she had the flu and eventually passed everyone up to win the Pacific Northwest Horse Trials (English).

    As an adult she suffered from a condition that caused her to gain weight, a lot of it (100 pounds), but her horse riding experience came into play again, and she has now lost the weight against impossible odds.

    [FROM WILL: Amazing what we can learn from our young people.]

    Pat McCord

  2. Thank you, Will! The story you told, had a surprising influence for me: when you asked, who else I know, who inspired me, I realized it was me. I maybe looked at the disappointments more, and your words made me look at my persistence, integrity, following my values. Thank you very much, and please tell CJ, too, - he did it not only for himself, but for all of us, too. Thank you both! :)

    [FROM WILL: CJ was at his sister's elementary school graduation and looked trim and fit. I'll pass on your thoughts when I see him again.]

    Guest (Olga Farber)

  3. The topic of reinventing oneself is coming at just the right time!
    I have just joined COS and it definitely will be a REINVENTION!! Thank you!!

    [FROM WILL: Welcome to Circle of Success and congratulations on your decision. Look me up at Bootcamp if you come this year.]

    Guest (Wayne)

  4. Courage in the face of disappointment.
    Tenacity,Determination,Persistence and for my sake the Performance.I just included Performance to complete your statement.
    It was my goal to learn German language.
    After several disappointment I continued to learn German for about 8 years.Now I am proud to speak German.You know perhaps that Winston Churchill said:
    Never,never,never give up.

    [FROM WILL: Congratulations on your success.]

    Guest (ali rely)

  5. CJ's story reminds me of my daughter, who was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease at 13; she is now 22. In February she had surgery. Disaster struck, and she was raced back to the OR 4 times in 2 weeks. A simple procedure turned into near-death: her heart stopped, blood went septic, she couldn't breathe, and they couldn't even close her gaping wound for weeks. Recovery was a torturous process, but she found strength and kept going. Now she's practicing saber drills with her beloved sword collection again. She's my inspiration.

    [FROM WILL: A wonderful story. Please accept my prayers for her.]


  6. Thank you Will, for your words of encouragement. My biggest challenge right now is 'time'! Ever since I signed up for the Six figure copywriting last April, I have been having unusual things happening in my life that take me away from my study time. But, I won't give up! Determination is always on my mind and so I have stealing minutes from each day instead of hours. I have also been finding creative ways to sneaking in some of that study time. So, thank you again as I know that I am not alone in my challenges!

    [FROM WILL: Time is a big problem. Check out TWL and other AWAI articles on scheduling. Good luck.]

    Guest (Donna M Bass)

  7. I'm not sure if I believe your "CJ" story as I was in the military and you don't "pass" or "fail" the ASVAB. It simply categorizes your ability and gives the military an idea on where to put you. So, you've lost some serious credibility.

    [FROM WILL: This is an interesting point that I can't defend against. However, I know CJ and have known him since he was in 8th grade. I know the struggles he has persisted through. I know his parents well and I know they would not lie to me. And I know a man who administers the ASVAB. And while I may have removed some details, CJ's story is true. I don't mind your questioning my credibility … but what do I gain by falsifying the story?]

    Guest (jeffrey)

  8. It's important to know that learning disabilities are the best indication to seek an area in which excelling duly renders OTHERS disabled. We're all wired differently. And once we courageously find what our work's cut out for, tenacity, determination, and persistence can give true meaning to our life's unique purpose.

    [FROM WILL: The irony of CJ's struggles is I don't know of a young person more suited for success in the military.]

    Guest (Chris Morris)

  9. Thank you, each one for sharing. The world we live in we live through and endure to be a better person.1994 my daughter 18 was given four units of blood which three were HIV-CONTAMINATED. Life would never be the same. October 2001 I was involved in a head-on collision, which left me with soft tissue brain damage, memory loss, and severe migraines. December 2001 my oldest son was murdered and one year prior, my son at 18 sentenced to 12 years in prison. I am #13 of 14 siblings. I went through many years of sexual abuse. Through everything in life and at 63, I have learned to take life as a smorgasbord in front of me! At my fingertips, I choose the goodies that make me happy and indulge in them! With every precious memory I can take with me!

    [FROM WILL: Tough story with a great attitude for the conclusion.]


  10. "Disappointment, but never defeat." You said it all, Will. Great article. Great inspiration.

    [FROM WILL: Thank you for your comment.]

    Thomas Arillotta

  11. I too have a son named Cj for a brief moment I thought this could be him (ego I know). Except there were a few glaring differences. He was constantly in trouble with the law but instead of being a bad kid he used it in his favor. As part of one of his trips to juvenile hall he was allowed to enter fire camp. There is where he found his passion and life purpose...a Wildland firefighter. He worked hard even with his reading disabilities. Unfortunately he was struck down by a drunk driver during his first year three years ago and slowly climbing out of a minimally conscious state.
    I just wanted to share his tenacity as well...thank you though for a great post.

    [FROM WILL: Your story brought tears to my eyes. Your CJ sounds like another young friend of mine who struggled to find a path until he found wildland firefighting as well. Our prayers and good thoughts go out to your CJ.]

    Guest (TERI)

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