Hard work still pays off

When I was a kid, I believed anything anyone told me. I wasn’t particularly gullible or stupid, I just listened very well.

That’s most of what made me a good athlete. Everything I ever did on the ice was because I was part of a good team, not because I was a star. I always worked well with others and took the directions that my coaches dolled out and applied them to the best of my ability. That lent me to be described for the rest of my career as a “highly coachable” player, which was not a bad tag to have, looking back.

I had my glory on the ice — winning a state championship, wearing the “C” for four seasons and winning enough trophies to fill up a couple of cardboard boxes — but none of it was handed to me. I earned every one of those trophies, was the best captain I could ever be and cried when I lifted that state championship trophy.

I don’t know where I’d be if it weren’t for one simple lesson I took in back when I didn’t think twice about anything. Its point was nothing much, just a couple of words that could be easily incorporated into a pre-game speech, a huddled-up chant or a motivational ploy. Simply, but not simply, it was “Hard work pays off.”

Man, I took that message to heart. And I thought I was darn cool because of it too. I knew that I was doing my best, and that gave me an odd sense of accomplishment. I was maybe nine years old at the time.

I’m 18 now and it still does the same thing for me. It’s funny how as some things change, others stay the same.*

*I tried to avoid the additional cliché, but it’s just not happening for this one.

Over the years, the motto stuck with me, for whatever reason. It may have been because it was all-encompassing. Maybe because it was simple. Looking back, it’s probably because working hard was what I did best.

Now that my life is about more than lugging around a 20-pound bag and cramming 22 kids into a 15×15 locker room as the sun comes up on a Saturday, I have come to the conclusion that lesson is the backbone of what I do today.

Without that core value, I would have none of the opportunities that have become available to me. That isn’t because I have people praising me for how hard I work, it’s because of what I’ve learned and consequently created while putting in those long hours. Heck, in my line of work working hard is nothing more than a prerequisite and pat on the back. It’s an expectation.

Some of my best stuff has been done with the clock ticking well past midnight or with a deadline breathing down my neck. Yes, that’s the life of a journalist, but it’s one that still gives me a rush of adrenaline every time. I’ll go as far as saying my work has filled the void that’s sitting in my hockey bag back home. In that, I absolutely have no doubt.

It’s these hours spent with my laptop and headphones that mean the most to me. Writing for the sake of doing so, without having to pause my music to transcribe a quote or take a call is calming to me. And the great part about it is that the novelty of it all had worn off long ago. I do this every day and it still makes me happy. This life could have become a routine, but instead I have made it into something that gets my blood pumping day in and day out.

Whatever clicked in my head back then has stuck for 10 years. The great news is that if it’s stuck along that long, I have a long, fulfilling road ahead of me.



2 thoughts on “Hard work still pays off

  1. I completely agree with you. As a former athlete, I can definitely tell you that journalism has taken the place of my soccer bag from what seems like eons ago

    Posted by Alex Stuckey | February 17, 2012, 7:42 pm

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My name is Jim Ryan, and I'm a breaking news reporter for The Oregonian and OregonLive in Portland. I'm an Ohio University graduate from Gaylord, Michigan.

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