What’s your excuse?
April 3, 2019

“Mention ‘power takeoff accident’ to anyone who’s been around a farm very long and the first thing they probably think of is death. At least dismemberment, but probably death. A slow, painful, bone-crushing death.”

Staying the CourseThat’s how one chapter begins in Staying the Course, the memoir I wrote for former marathon champion turned farm accident survivor Dick Beardsley.

So far, so good.

But a bit later in the chapter, as the tension was building -- you know something bad’s going to happen but you don’t know when -- I mention “power takeoff” again. “You have to tell people what that is,” Darrell said when I showed him the first draft. “I can’t,” I countered. “I can’t take a break from the action for a definition.” He looked at me. “You have to,” he said.

This was unusual. Darrell’s suggestions are almost always wrapped in, “But, hey. It’s your call.” Not this time. He wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Suddenly I realized what I meant when I said, “I can’t.” I meant, “I don’t know how.”

Darrell wasn’t only a journalist and one of my editors. He grew up on a farm. I couldn’t dismiss his suggestion. The fix was relatively easy once I accepted the situation, and I learned something important in the process. If you can shorten the time between realizing “I can’t” means “I don’t know how,” you’ll free up brain space to work the problem.

Pretending there isn’t a problem? That never works.