I don’t really believe in good luck charms, but I’ve had a talisman for almost 30 years. It has been my secret weapon for accomplishments. I rarely shared about it in the past, because I never wanted its magic to wear off.

The secret is a story. And this has been the most influential story of my life. Up until today, I never knew it was inspirational to so many others as well.

When I was in the fifth grade, probably about age 10, I read a short story titled “Throw Your Hat Over the Fence.” It was about a boy who had to get to some particular place, but he was running late. He realized if he could climb a fence and cut through a field, he would have a significant shortcut, and he would make it on time. But the fence was tall, and he wasn’t sure he could do it. The boy takes off his hat, his favorite hat, and tosses it over the fence. Now he has to find a way over the fence. He committed himself to the task, and there was no backing out now.

Even at age 10, this story reverberated in my mind. I am so thankful I read it early in life. It never occurred to me that this story was taken from another source, but I didn’t really read footnotes or references back then. I was discussing this story with my wife the other day and decided to see if I could find it. I found a lot more than I was expecting.

The original story was penned by the Irish writer, Frank O’Conner, in his memoir, An Only Child. The author shares:

…how, as a boy, he and his friends would make their way across the countryside, and when they came to an orchard wall that seemed too high and too doubtful to try and too difficult to permit their voyage to continue, they took off their hats and tossed them over the wall—and then they had no choice but to follow them. 

Apparently, this story made an impact on many others as well, including U.S. President John F. Kennedy. The following is a quote from when he was dedicating the Aerospace Medical Health Center in San Antonio on 21 November 1963. He was speaking about the United States’ commitment to space exploration despite the dangers and many unknown factors. He concluded his speech by saying:

This nation has tossed its cap over the wall of space, and we have no choice but to follow it. Whatever the difficulties, they will be overcome . . . we will climb this wall . . . and we shall then explore the wonders on the other side.

It is a simple story with a profound meaning. I have held this story close to my heart, and I have used its wisdom many times.

Now there are times to take a step back and evaluate. There are times to wait until everything lines up before we proceed. However, all too often, this leads to never accomplishing anything. We are afflicted with analysis paralysis, and we never get anything done.

Then there are times that the commitment creates the solution.

I did this when I moved from Florida to Kentucky chasing after a girl. I had no job and only had one month’s rent. That girl is now my wife.

I did this when I turned down a paid job to instead start my own graphic design business. I was only 22 years old. I had never worked for myself before that day. That business was my sole income for five years.

I did this when I decided to go back to school to become a physician. I graduated from the Mayo Clinic and have practiced medicine on four continents.

I did this when we decided to live a more intentional, agrarian life. I grew up in the suburbs of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We now own a farm and have cattle grazing the pastures.

I also think it is important to point out that I’ve not had success after success. I have had many events that others may call failures. I just choose not to look at them as such. They have each been learning experiences that have given me more knowledge and confidence to try bigger or more bold endeavors.

So if you have something that you know you should do, something you feel you should attempt, and you feel it down to your marrow, down to your soul, but you have not done it yet because you are waiting, waiting for things to fall in place, waiting for the stars to align before you move forward, then I challenge you to commit to it. I challenge you to take a step that makes it impossible for you not to try. I challenge you to throw your hat over the fence.


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Photo References (with a little editing by me):

  • http://schoolofmavericks.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/kids-climbing-a-fence.jpg