In my “tween” years, I went to camp in New Hampshire. I loved that experience. As a 12-year-old, I was on my own for the first time, away from my family, meeting people from places other than New York. Over 5 years, I made friendships that have lasted.
Not only did I love the experience of being at camp, I loved the surroundings. Set on Lake Wentworth, buried in the woods, I found myself dwarfed by remarkable pine trees daily. Cabins were constructed between the mammoth roots. On hot, sunny days those trees provided much needed shade. On rainy days, they worked like semi-functional umbrellas. Essentially, they protected us as we played and we learned.
I grew up under those trees physically, mentally and emotionally. I found my voice among those trees. Part of whom I am now is certainly due to my experiences there. As you likely have divined, I view that experience fondly.
Any time I smell pine, two things immediately come to mind: Christmas and camp. If you ask me which comes first, I will have to admit that I am immediately transported to camp. I don’t know the science to explain why our sense of smell triggers memories, but there are a myriad of research papers that explain this biological marvel. Individually, I suspect each of you have your own examples to support this fact.
Of course, if smells can trigger good memories, they also have the ability to trigger unhappy memories. I cannot smell raspberry soap without being transported to purgatory. You can imagine why I routinely try to avoid Bath & Body Works.
I’d love to overwrite those memories. I am working on it. Recently, I had to buy a new shampoo to treat my son’s chlorine-plagued hair. You can imagine my surprise when I opened it and it smelled like raspberries. Perhaps the use of the soap on his head will help me reset my memory bank. Actually, I am counting on it.
Striving for the balance in life, I find myself constantly working to stay on keel. Good memories keep us on keel; tough memories can push us off balance. If this happens, if you find yourself transported to a place, revisited by a memory your find difficult, remember that you are in charge of your response. You can leave that memory, that smell, in your past. Surround yourself with the smells and the memories that bring you joy.
Go find your pine tree.
Success in anything takes focus, education, training and dedication. Although some will say that it is mysterious how another rises to the top in a given field, if you asked that person how they made it to where they are, I strongly suspect the story will include all these elements. Dispel the mystery in your own mind; success takes hard work.
Why did I begin with this? Because when you are ready to make a change, no matter what it is, acknowledging this truth will make your path easier. If you are now asking yourself “why” or “how,” let me explain. It is admirable to begin down a path to change, but when you face challenges on that path, let’s be honest: it is easy to quit. However, if you decide before you're even out of the gate that you know those challenges exist, that some challenges will be simple and others will be difficult to overcome, you will have prepared yourself properly to address what is before you.
Specific examples may be helpful here. If you have chosen (note I do not say “you are trying,”) to change your diet, there will likely be a time when you are out with people who don’t have the same goal. Without warning, someone puts a food in front of you that you are trying to avoid. Because you’ve chosen to make this change, you’ll be ready for this circumstance. You’ll be prepared to eat a small portion, or none at all. You’ll be prepared to order something else. Other’s scrutiny of your decision won’t deter you. Knowing that your goal is greater than that moment, you will be mentally prepared to succeed.
If your goal is to master a subject you find difficult, your decision to acquire this knowledge is step number one. Knowing that the subject matter is challenging, step number two requires you to identify a path that helps you wrap your brain around the topic. Many paths exist to assist you with conceptional understanding. Some learn by listening. Some learn by reading. Some learn by doing. Some learn through a combination of these techniques. Identify the mechanism that helps you learn and run with it. When you encounter a challenging concept, stay with it. If you’ve selected the teaching technique that works for you, you will eventually understand the concept.
Law school was a challenge for me. Evidence class was particularly challenging. Parole evidence rule? Promissory estoppel? WHAT? Early on, I knew I would need some help hammering these concepts into my cinderblock brain. Thankfully, my good friend Mary tutored me through it. I also knew that the application of these concepts would help me better understand them, and that would only happen if I actually graduated and started practicing law. I pushed through. God bless Mary. As I expected, when I started practicing, the application of those concepts galvanized them for me.
You have the ability, and the opportunity, to be successful. Double down and do the work. Focus on your goal. Get the education and training you need. Dedicate yourself to the path, to your chosen end point.
Don’t miss the opportunity. Seize the opportunity.