This week, my oldest daughter reminded me of a good lesson with leadership and that is to Think Big. She happens to be deaf with the additional challenge of cerebral palsy (CP) but isn’t letting that stand in her way. She attends a deaf high school but wants to be treated like any other teenager. This year, she made it a point to participate in extracurricular activities at school. She did some overnight technology retreats, participated in the high school play and tried out for next year’s cheerleading squad. While technology retreats and drama are activities that can be accomplished without too much difficulty, cheerleading involves physical maneuvers that are made even more difficult with CP. She does have two arms, but one has limited functionality. Even with this challenge, my daughter still wanted to chase after her dream of becoming a cheerleader. I often tell my daughter that she can do anything if she puts her mind to it, but even I didn’t think that she had a shot of doing that.
A few years ago, she tried out to be a cheerleader when she first got to high school but didn’t make the squad. The coach told her the things that she needed to work on and to try again the next year. Some of the coach’s suggestions were going to be difficult because of the CP. In addition, the “weaker” arm seemed to be getting worse instead of better so she lost some of her confidence. She could get by with the help of an aide in class, but if she wanted to participate in cheerleading, she needed to find a better way to use it. It was decision time.
Since she became a teenager, my wife and I have let our daughter take the lead in determining the best way to manage her CP. After thinking about her dream of becoming a cheerleader, she asked us to help her find a new doctor who could help her with her arm. With some extensive searching, we were able to find a doctor who could address her issues with medication to give her arm some increased flexibility. It is in no way “normal” but it does allow her to keep her arm in a more comfortable position. This gave her a spark and renewed confidence to chase after her dream.
A few weeks ago, she announced that she wanted to try out for the cheerleading squad again. This time, she made the squad. While we may have had doubts, she never did. She told us that she had prayed about it so she knew that she would make it. With her latest success, my daughter reminded me of three leadership lessons:
- Think Big – If you can dream it, you can achieve it.
- Ask For Help – Don’t be afraid to admit that you need help. My daughter noticed that her arm wasn’t getting better. Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she decided to do something about it. By asking for help, we found another way to “stimulate” her arm.
- Don’t Give Up – My daughter stuck with it and made the cheerleading squad on the second try. Thomas Edison said that “Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration.” It is ok to fail, just don’t stay down. Get back up and keep fighting.
When my daughter went to school the next day, people were shocked that she made the cheerleading squad. One of her teachers even asked to see proof! When she produced the email, that teacher couldn’t believe it. She simply smiled and walked away.
My daughter is on the cheerleading squad because she dared to dream big. She visualized her goal and didn’t let anyone or anything stand in her way. You may not be trying to make the high school cheerleading squad, but you may have a dream that you think is too big. My advice is to go after the dream anyway. Maybe you will succeed or maybe you won’t. One thing is for sure, you will never succeed unless you try.
So, if a deaf kid with Cerebral Palsy can dream big and make the cheerleading squad, what’s your excuse?