It was the summer before my freshman year of high school. My brother, Derrick, was a few years ahead of me and picked up this crazy sport, called pole vaulting. Before school began, he got me out on the track and taught me. From that day on, I couldn’t get enough.

In high school, I was a goalie, a wrestler and a pole vaulter. By the end of my sophomore year I knew I had to give up wrestling. I had a goal to break the school record of 14′ 6″. To do it, I would need to train during the winter so I could perform in the spring.

Pole vaulting

And train I did. I hired a strength coach to make sure I was strong enough. I ate a strict diet to make sure my body was ready. I did vaulting exercises every day after school to make movements a habit. I attended a pole vaulters camp at the University of Kansas, home to some of the best vaulters.

I loved everything about the sport, and I gave everything I had to reach my goals.

Fast forward to my senior year. I was making good progress, but the season was coming to an end. At this point everyone knew what I was trying to do, even the local newspapers.

One more shot or disappointment

I was fortunate enough to win the last meet going into the State finals. This was going the be the last track meet of my career. It was the last chance I would have to break the record.

I was confident going into the meet. I cleared 14′ 6″ in practice, but never in an official meet.

It came time for me to jump. The weather was gloomy and wet. There was a wind blowing right into us as we ran down the track. I made the decision to start jumping around 13′ so I could conserve my energy and clear 14′ 6″.

I started down the track, slid the pole into the box, lifted off and knocked the cross bar down. Fault #1. On my second attempt, everything felt good. I repeated the same process, had good form and got the same result. Fault #2. On my third attempt, I knew I had to clear it or I was out of the competition. I put my head down, sprinted towards my target, flew through the air and landed with a thud.

Fault #3. Game over. I was out of the competition, without clearing my opening vault. No state medal. No school record.

Disappointment in missing my vault

The look of disappointment

I remember walking to the car with everyone looking at me, wondering what to say. I spoke first. The one thing I remember saying was, “If this is the worst thing that ever happens to me in life, I will be OK.”

Failing to reach a goal I had for 4 years was tough. I worked hard for it. I was disappointed. Somehow I forced myself to think about the long term. In that moment I realized the pain of disappointment was temporary. This event would be a spec in the story of my life.

In life, you can do everything right and still find disappointment. You might lose a game, a friend will let you down, you won’t get the job you wanted. Life is a wild ride. It’s an adventure. Enjoy the ups and downs, but never get down on yourself.

When you face disappointment, it’s OK to be upset. Take an hour, a day, a week and process it. But, don’t dwell on it. Think about how you’ll remember the disappointment 10 years from now. You will see it won’t feel so bad. Time has a way of erasing our pain. If you can imagine your future yourself, you can start to wipe away the pain in the present.

The final step is to move, take action. Start working on your next goal. Realize you are in control of your life. You may have hit a bump in the road, but you have to keep moving forward.

As Martin Luther King said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

This post is part of a series of letters to my kids. My goal is to reflect on and capture as many life lessons as possible. Here is the current list I am working from.