Some of my extended family lives on a farm in a small South Australian town called Saddleworth (so small that Microsoft doesn’t recognise it as a word, we don’t have this problem with Sydney, you elitist city tech wizards!).
We would visit our family on the farm, as family is wont to do, and one of the things my cousins and I would like to do was play golf on the paddocks. We also used to make cricket bats (although I could never quite get the weight right) and play table tennis (where I would try and convince them that at night I was helicoptered out to play in world tournaments… looking back the most foolish part of this lie was how ill-informed I was about the kind of money table tennis tournaments had to splash around on things like private helicopter flights).
One particulars summer’s day we went to the paddock closest to the house (or to put it in old timer farmer speak, the homestead) to play golf. I placed my tee in the dry dirt and swung for the fences… unfortunately I must have picked the wrong fence as the ball shot off on as close to a 90degree angle as is geometrically possible. The ball plodded down in a stream of mud, like one of those motivation posters of icebergs that are intended to show us all the work beneath the surface. And like the most famous story involving an iceberg, the tragedy was just beginning, sans love story.
Obviously my ball had travelled the least distance from the tee and so we all trotted over to the mud (not super pertinent, but just some details for my readers who are golfing enthusiasts, love you grandma!). I surveyed the drop, considered my options, analysed the analytics, and then started hacking at the ball like a colonial pioneer hacks through the jungle.
I hacked and hacked, swung and swung, and the ball did not move. I changed my stance, placing one foot on either side of the stream to improve the angle… swing, swing, hack, hack. All the while the only thing moving is the mud. The ball sits, undisturbed – enjoying the rejuvenating powers of a mud bath in the sun. I, however, am relentless! I will not be beaten, I will never quit, I will persevere and this ball will move. Swing, swing, hack, hack. My cousins watch on as I become covered in sweat and mud… swinging with a mix of futility and frustration.
It is only once I have a nice thick coating of mud that my cousins stop me, choosing this as the ideal moment to alert me to the fact that this isn’t mud…
Apparently, rural farms don’t necessarily have the same plumbing and sewerage that we are used to in the city… this is the paddock closest to the house after all.
I return to the house, moderately embarrassed and mortifyingly stinky, looking for parent 1 or 2 to help clean me off… which if memory serves, may have involved a hose. Over the coming hours and days there were plenty of jokes (and by hours and days I mean months and years)… but as I reflect on this story now, what strikes me is the lesson I learnt (though I didn’t know I learnt it until recently):
It’s ok to quit. There are times when we just need to walk away. Times when we should quit while we’re ahead, or behind… or at least still moderately clean.
Sometimes persistence doesn’t pay off.
Sometimes it just leaves you covered in shit.