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The School of Hard Knocks
Wednesday, February 12, 2014 • Posted February 14, 2014 10:33 AM

I have been enjoying the Winter Olympics on television. A snowboarder, who is not competing, stated his opinion that the Half Pipe snowboarding venue in Sochi, Russia, was not sufficiently difficult for Olympic competition. Be that as it may, I am impressed by the difficulty faced by the snowboarding athletes and the seemingly breakneck speed required to medal in the various downhill skiing and speed skating events.

Isn’t it interesting that we build artificial obstacles on a golf course to make the game more exciting and challenging and then complain because of the difficulties that are forced upon us in the game of life? Paul H. Dunn said, “No one ever achieves anything really interesting to himself or worthwhile for anyone else, no matter how many college degrees he may have gained, until he has entered and has had at least a few courses in the ‘University of Hard Knocks.’”

When I was a college student I obtained part-time work as an orderly in a hospital operating room. It was one of the most interesting jobs I ever had. There was a particular surgeon of some renown who specialized in back surgery. I remember how difficult he made life for his surgical team. He would yell at the nurses at the slightest breach of his expectations. I once saw him angrily throw a pair of clamps at the nurse who was assisting him. Then he, himself, required back surgery.

I saw a transformation take place in the man. I think he became not only a better surgeon but a better person as a result of his own surgery. After that first-hand experience, he acquired a better knowledge of sickness and sympathy for his patients and his staff that he could not have acquired without his having enrolled in the School of Hard Knocks himself.

In a previous Winter Olympics I remember a skier who was way out in front and had a gold medal well in hand. He celebrated a little too early and fell. As he struggled to get back on his feet, two skiers passed him at the finish line and his gold, in an instant, had turned into bronze. Sometimes it requires a struggle on the athletic field, a broken rib, an elbow in the eye, a beanball, torn ligaments, or a sprained ankle. But in the end these kinds of struggles not only develop physical health and mental toughness, but the courage to meet life’s tasks.

More than simply going to school, perhaps one must engage in some form of hard, honest labor that tries the body and taxes one’s patience almost to the breaking point in order to achieve the discipline that is good for the soul. Life cannot be learned entirely from a textbook, no matter how fine and comprehensive that book may be. David O. McKay said, “Let us realize that the privilege to work is a gift, that power to work is a blessing, that love of work is success.”

Paul H. Dunn said that “there is no particular power or charm tied up in a diploma. Of course its possession may give you a little more prestige to begin with. But life, the kind of thing for which you think you are preparing, whether in or out of college, discloses its secret opportunities and joys only to those who have developed power through the facing of obstacles.”

Thomas Edison told young people that the world pays big prices for the people who know the value and satisfaction of persistent hard work. Paul Dunn’s father put it this way, “When your ship comes in, make sure you are willing to unload it.”

Win or lose, I admire those who have reached, through their hard work and persistence, the level of competition required of the Olympic athlete. They know something about the School of Hard Knocks.


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