I really didn't think I'd make it. With every cycle my feet made on the bike I was moving slower and slower. The thought of just getting off my bike and jumping in the van became more appealing with each puff of my labored breath.
I was on a five-day bike trip in Croatia with my family. It had been a fabulous trip, cycling through one of the most beautiful countries on earth, creating wonderful memories and moments of bonding. That was the purpose of the trip and I was thrilled with how well it had gone.
It had been a fabulous trip, and while my son Daniel had made the approximately 30 miles fairly easily each day, my wife Heidi, my daughter Rachel and I had been stopping and getting in the van when we were tired. There was no shame in getting in the van, and other members of our group of 24 had done it on occasion.
This was our last day and we were at a particularly challenging part of the route, a 12-degree uphill climb. That may not sound like much but when you're on a bicycle it can feel like you're trying to ascend Mt. Kilimanjaro. We had known this stretch would be difficult and had planned all along to get in the van during this part.
But as we were slowly making our ascent and I was eyeing the van longingly, the other bikers and tour guides, with whom we had bonded as well, began to shout out words of encouragement.
"You can make it!" they yelled enthusiastically. "We know you can do it! Come on, it's not much farther!"
George M. Adams, who was a U.S. representative from Kentucky in the late 1800s, said, "Encouragement is the oxygen of the soul." That encouragement was just the oxygen we needed to get up that hill. Granted, we did have to get off and walk a bit at the steepest part, but we never gave up and never got in the van. Re-energized by the encouraging cheers of the others, we accomplished more than we ever thought possible.
Gasping for breath but with huge grins on our faces, we were rewarded with cheers of "Congratulations!" and, "We knew you'd make it!" from our fellow bikers. We felt like we'd just won a gold medal in the Olympics.
As a true Olympian, weightlifter Jim Stovall, said, "You need to be aware of what others are doing, applaud their efforts, acknowledge their successes, and encourage them in their pursuits. When we all help one another, everybody wins."
I try to follow this philosophy both at home with my family and at work with my colleagues. I know when I feel encouraged I am that much more motivated and can sometimes accomplish even more than I thought possible. And when I encourage others and see the pride and excitement they experience when they achieve more than they thought they could, I also feel like a winner.
I always try to remember the words of Mother Teresa. "Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless."
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