“Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives - choice, not chance, determines your destiny.”
I have this quote taped to the top part of our bathroom mirror as a reminder to myself to Do Excellence. I got this little piece of paper from Rev. Lewis years ago at a young adults ministries weekend. I felt it was such an intentional message from Rev. as there was nothing else on that piece of paper but the quote from Aristotle. I liked this quote for many reasons, but in particular and to be deep for a moment, because I perceive a battle amongst many whether fate is determined by ourselves, the Universe, God or outside circumstances. This question is often asked when we lose someone we care for. People can lose their sense of faith at times like this, like times going on in our communities across our nation from all of the violence in our schools. But if we lose sight of faith we can feel powerless and if we feel powerless we may not do what it takes to succeed. We may feel hopeless that putting in our best effort really pays off. I understand how kids today looking at the world may struggle having hope, self confidence and striving for excellence. If we lose sight of connecting with something greater, be it great minds, leaders or something, what we partner in our minds is left to chance. This quote has been a reminder for me to set the bar high and examine the choices made every day, every day, every day, because choice, not chance determines destiny. The world may bring what is does but individually we can make a big difference over time in our own lives.
Somedays I look up to my bathroom mirror and reflect if I made excellent choices. Some days I don’t even notice it. Last night, on Saturday Feb 17th, I did notice it and for the first time I felt a story of true excellence was shown to me that day. And I want to share that story with you. It is a story of my nephew, Jakob Peavey.
On that particular Saturday, I made my way down to Sanford High School for the Maine State Class A Wrestling Championship. When I got there, I saw three mats set out in a packed, old, small gym. On the mats were all the heavyweights and I scanned them looking for Jakob’s Royal Blue singlet. I didn’t see it, and I noticed these matches were just going on and on. I was unfamiliar with watching the boys at 285 pounds wrestling for period after period because my nephew had been pinning his opponents in under a minute in any of the matches I watched. I talked with a random Dad standing next to me and asked if he could recall seeing a royal blue wrestler. He hadn’t. I said to him “Wow, these matches are going on and on.” He said “Well, yes, today they will because you have the best of the best out there.” I thought to myself that he must not know my nephew!
Then I spotted a 6-foot royal blue figure across the mats watching intently. There was Cubby, as we used to called him when he was little. I don’t think he likes being called that now, but tolerates it from his mom. Jake is how he likes to be called by his friends.
I had missed Jakob’s first match (which he won by pin) and learned that it would be at least another hour and a half before he competed again. Going into the semifinals, they had to start again from the boys that weigh at 106 pounds and then up through thirteen different weight classes to get to the heavyweights at 285.
In between his matches, Jakob normally spends his time watching and encouraging his teammates, coaching his younger brother, eating, or hanging out with his girlfriend. When it is time to get in the zone, headphones and headgear come on to drown out the noise, and Jakob begins stretching and warming up and getting his mind focused on winning. I witnessed other kids doing similar warm-ups, but never to the extent Jakob does. I like taking pictures during this time because it speaks to how I can get photos of winning. You can’t have the victory moment shot without the quality prep time. I am so glad I was not in assignment from a newspaper that wanted only match-winning shots, so I could photograph the story the way I observed it.
Jakob won his second match in 52 seconds.They called his name, he threw off his shorts and jersey, and went running through the people to get his match card. I went running to my camera bag and quickly traded my 50mm lens for my 200. I was too much in the zone of photographing Cub 'getting in the zone' that I wasn’t set up for a good position in the crowd to shoot. I missed getting a shot of him picking up another 285 pound boy and throwing him in the air to take him into his Cubby-move of a pin. It was something to see-- never do you see big guys get thrown in the air like that. Wow.
I had some lunch and found out Jakob wouldn’t compete again for a few hours because they had more elimination matches. He would compete only against the best of them for the finals.
I left to go to an appointment in Kittery and returned to watch the finals a few hours later.
When I came into the gym, I saw Jake talking to another big boy in a purple singlet, from Cheverus. I thought “he must be competition”. I asked Jake about him and Jake said that he was. Either the big purple guy from Cheverus or Jake was going to be state champion. I don’t know about the competition, but I do know that Jake has said he wants to be state champion since he was a sophomore. He is now a senior, and he is one match away from making that a reality. I asked Jake what he thought about competing with Zeb. He said he had fought him before and knows he has to “get after him”. I asked Jake to explain. “To be aggressive, and to be smart.” I could see in his eyes he knew how to win, but I could also see some uncertainty in his eyes too that he wondered just how it would go down. I left him to be in the zone which he started this time while the 106 pounders were going, a good hour or more of getting in the zone. I kept looking over at the competition, sitting on the rolled up mats along with his friends. I thought “wow, is he not worried about winning?” Competitions can mean different things for different people and they may all show it differently.
While Jake stayed in the getting ready zone, the other kid was in a hang out zone. I know for a fact that Jake had his mind on winning. I sat back and watched. I wondered if Jake would win, I wanted him to because I knew how hard he worked.
When the last match of the night finally came around 6:15pm, it had been a long day for the kids, for everybody. I had my spot staked out to shoot since Jake gave me an hour and a half of getting in the zone shots! Plus there was plenty of space now, as only half the people were there.
When their names were called, the look on Jake’s face was serious and intent. The look on his opponent's face, happy and confident. In fact, when they called their names, Cheverus pumped his arms in the air and his friends cheered. He was last year’s State Champ. I found myself really wanting Jake to win now. He was probably just psyching himself up, but I get emotionally involved when watching, I can't help it. I imagine Jake didn’t get heated, he just had his mind on playing smart and aggressive. Which he did. 45 seconds later, he had the boy on the mat giving him the pancake grip of death, of which there was no coming out of. At 49 seconds, match over. Jake won.
My sister came running down through the bleachers, tears streaming down her face, coming to give her Cubby a hug. I can only imagine how she felt. How many hours of sitting in a gym on Saturdays watching and supporting Jake to get to this? Countless hours.
I could tear up now just recalling how she looked and how little brother, Isaak, looked too. They both were so happy for him. That is what family is for. Supporting each other and wanting each other to succeed.
What I witnessed was excellence on Jakob’s part. Years of working hard, learning and having a good attitude. Jake is far from arrogant, unlike some of his competition. Sometimes it is easy to get overconfident and then you don’t plan well, and you make mistakes and lose. My nephew had competed enough to know not to fall into that trap. As senior class president and a great support to his team, I have my hopes that Jakob continues to operate with high standards. The world needs it and it is a great thing to watch.
Client Spotlight #2: Jakob is not only my nephew but a client. He contacted me this summer to do his senior pictures because he wanted something different than what all his friends were doing. We discussed this a few times and he insisted on paying. I convinced him he wouldn’t because of all the times I forgot to send him a birthday present. I am better at being a photographer than a shopper. Jake had his shots all planned out, photograph at the state house where his mom worked for years and a beautiful spot down by the water where he likes to go fishing. Oh and to include his girlfriend and his mom in the shoot. He enjoyed the shoot and I can tell from that day and watching him on the wrestling team he has an open mind, he was willing to do whatever idea I had and would suggest his own.
He wants to learn and doesn’t get hung up on a lot of stuff that prevents excellence like distractions and ego.
He is an example for us all and makes a great client spotlight for my blog!