Lesson 72: The human will is a powerful thing

Published 2:59 pm Thursday, May 6, 2010

Sometimes if you want to see a change for the better, you have to take things into your own hands.

Clint Eastwood

Did you hear the one about the guy who cut off his own arm with a dull pocket knife? It really happened, and the guys name was Aron Ralston.

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An experienced hiker and mountain climber, Ralston was hiking alone through a remote area of Utah canyons when a boulder shifted, pinning his right arm so tightly that he couldnt extricate it.

Ralston remained trapped against the boulder for five days before deciding that his only hope of survival was to cut off the arm with his multi-use pocket tool. So thats what he did.

After what must have been an incredibly painful self-amputation (during which he deliberately broke the two bones above his wrist and cut through the soft tissue with the dull blade of his knife), he rappelled down to level ground and hiked out of the wilderness to find help.

Ralston documented his experience in a book entitled Between a Rock and a Hard Place, published in 2004.

This is just one dramatic example of what a person can do when he or she is determined. Aron Ralston decided that he would not allow himself to die because of a 700-pound boulder that couldnt be moved, so he did the only thing he could.

One of the main themes of this book is the notion that you can do virtually anything you put your mind to. Now, lets consider that concept in bigger, more powerful terms. Much bigger. Much more powerful. Such as:

Stonehenge. The Great Pyramids. The Great Wall of China. The Taj Mahal. The discovery of the New World. The D-Day assault on Normandy. All of these great achievements were accomplished by ordinary people, not using twenty-first-century tools and technology, but with grit, determination, and the will to succeed.

What about you? What can you accomplish? Running a marathon? Sailing around the globe solo? Building a business empire? Expand your horizons. Believe in yourself. You have a huge future ahead of you as long as you have the willpower to make it happen.

Excerpted from The Graduates Book of Practical Wisdom: 99 Lessons They Cant Teach in School by C. Andrew Millard, published by Morgan James Publishing, available in bookstores and online. &opy; 2008 by C. Andrew Millard; all rights reserved. For more information visit www.wisegraduate.com.