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, written by Jeremy. Read the commentary.

The year I turned ten Marc Decker beat me tirelessly. We were both in grade six. We shared a bus stop. I went to a private Christian school and he went to the public school.

Marc grew up on a farm, had several big brothers, and was a scrappy kid. My dad was the local pastor, I was the oldest kid in my family, and Marc was the only one I’d ever fought.

The year I turned ten I enjoyed a sudden and largely unnoticed growth spurt. I moved quickly from pudgy and short to trim and tall. As most things go at age ten, I didn’t catch onto the change.

The year I turned ten I discovered a lesson.

Marc Decker had me in a head-lock, was raining down his little right fist on my back, and shouting “Bible-thumper!!!” mericlessly in my ear. I was on my face, in the dirt.

There in the dirt, ear drums ringing, I finally noticed a change I’d ignored until that moment. It was one of those dream-like moments. I could almost see myself, as though a third person, standing beside Marc, getting ready for that inevitable fight. The boy I saw – the boy I was – was taller, heavier and stronger.

I stood up.

There was no clarion call. I didn’t launch into some blinding combo of punches and kicks. I just got to my feet and stood there with my arch nemisis hanging with his arms around my neck.

Marc grunted, hung there a few moments, kicked his legs several times and then let go. He stepped back and bellowed up at me that I was some ten-year old version of a coward, spun around, and stomped back to his friends.

Marc and I never fought again.

In business it’s easy to get caught on my knees. Easy to let weakness define decisions. Easy to stay deeply tuned to the boundaries trumpeted by propects smelling a good deal.

This is especially the case after being employed (vs self-employed) and being subjected to reviews that, when an employee, deserved full attention. All those gaps, ladders, and deficiencies that were so long the focus of every evaluation somehow carry over to this new thing. Like those dreams of missing some university exam, or showing up naked to a presentation – it’s a haunting sort of feeling.

I walk around feeling short, pudgy, and weak.

There was an almost indescribable joy in that moment I stood up with Marc struggling around my neck. When he marched off, his little head bobbing with the vigor of his shouting, I felt like a mountain. That moment awakened in me a quiet voice that’s continued to flicker from then until now.

That voice is so quiet and the world of other voices is so loud, it is almost impossible to hear it sometimes. It’s easily forgotten.

I drove home yesterday with a $2,500 check on the seat beside me. That, a retainer, and several more days of signed work mean my next three months of living are already in hand.

Now I know, three month’s mortgage is no grand goal but it means I am out of the dirt. I am taller and stronger than I felt I was.

I can stand up. I can choose what I do next. I can say no. I can say, “Yes, but only to this, and for at least this much.” I can say those things with a confidence and passion someone might hear in the voices of ten-year old boys.

The joy, peace and confidence this brings is a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Commentary

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