It was a high noon showdown with my brother Jeff. He had challenged me to a dirt clod duel, and code of honor prevented me from backing down. Dirt clods were plentiful on the edge of the alley, baked to a crackly crunch in the Illinois sun. Like ancient warriors, we held up steel trash can lids to protect us from a direct blow to the face.
I was emboldened by the story of David and Goliath I had just heard at Sunday School. Not just because my name was David, but because this little guy took on a giant with just a few stones and won. It’s a story about faith, about standing your ground, about looking fear in the eye and taking your shot.
My older brother Jeff was a goliath – a star pitcher on his little league team and multi-sport athlete. And I… was not. I was more like the waterboy. Yet there I stood, squinting sweat from my eyes in the sunlight. I summoned all my courage, threw my dirt clod with all my might and landed my shot… 5 yards in front of Jeff’s feet, in a pathetic poof of dust.
My throwing motion rotated my shield behind me, leaving me exposed. That’s when my eyes focused in on the spinning projectile bearing down on me at high speed. It hit me square in the chest, exploding in a cloud of dust and gravel. I threw down my shield and ran back into the house, wondering why my Sunday school teacher had steered me so wrong.
A couple of weeks later, we were playing ball tag with a bunch of neighborhood kids. Instead of tagging by hand we threw a red rubber gym class dodgeball. I decided to take evasive action, and take the game to a new level, by climbing the front yard maple tree. Nobody had called it out of bounds. And because I was so scrawny, I was able to climb up to the tiniest branches at the top.
Jeff took aim with the ball, but couldn’t hit me through the branches. And he was too big to climb up any closer to the small nest of branches I was swaying in at the top. My small size was no longer a liability.
It dawned on me that being in the right environment could turn my weakness into a strength. I got clobbered in the alley. I was victorious in the tree.
Are there situations in your life where you are standing your ground and hurling clod after clod, but still getting clobbered? Take job searching for example. Maybe you are early in your career, or maybe in the later stages of a career looking for your next big challenge. We all have experience and skills that transfer into other industries, yet we tend to keep returning to the same alley… and getting dirt clods to the chest.
It’s ironic that your greatest strength may be in knowing your weaknesses. Take an honest look at where you are battling for your next opportunity. Maybe it’s time to change the battlefield. Maybe it’s time to go climb a tree.