The Door That Would Not Budge

How I learned About the Futility of Good Intentions with Misguided Efforts

By
Coach Izzy

The lessons that stick with us for life are the ones that blow our minds with their simplicity. They make us feel incompetent, if not ridiculous, but their impact weighs heavily in our future decisions. One of such lessons came to me early in life and has served me as a powerful guide when frustration sets. It was as if life had decided to give me a crash-course in misguided good intentions at that moment.

I love to open my speaking engagements with the tale of this lesson and though my audience gets a hearty chuckle out of it, they immediately understand the depth of such a powerful event, and from that moment I have their undivided attention. I’m sure you’re itching to find about what could be so tremendous in the life of a seven year old boy to influence him for the rest of his life, so I will not make you wait further. Make your conclusions and I hope it saves you precious time and resources.

It was summer. School was out and the days were marked by the commanding presence of the equatorial sun. The white, dry, blinding, merciless heat of the summer in the coastal town of Chorrillos, was the perfect alibi to trek down to the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean and seek relief from the embrace of Helios. It was in one of those days that my next door neighbor asked me for a favor. A tall, fair-skinned, brunette of slim proportions and loud fashion approached me in a morning in which I was entertained by toy trucks, dirt, pebbles, and water.

Sweetie,” she called in her musical Cuban accent, “can I bother you for a favor?

I raised my head to look at her. I was under the protective shade of a blossoming grapevine. Her wide-brimmed straw hat seemed too large for her head. Her necklace and bracelet matched the brash electric blue of her summer dress, complete with shades of hues whose nominations remain unknown to me. She was approaching with slow steps, her sandals groaning “flop, flop, flop” with every step she took. I could not see her eyes as they were shielded by a pair of comically large sunglasses, the ones the 1970s turned into fashion Must-Have’s.

A giant bug,’ I thought, making a titanic effort not to burst in laughter.

Flop, flop, flop,” she kept approaching, “sweetie, can I?”
Sure! What is it?”

She got closer. My distorted reflection on her sunglasses stared back at me. Holding my laughter became increasingly difficult.

Can you water my flowers, please? I’ll be away for a few days and the flowers need water twice per day.”
No problem!
Thank you! I’m leaving tonight so if you could go starting tomorrow for the next three days, that’d be great.”
I can do that.”
The hose is ready and you need to be there in the morning and late afternoon.”
Ok!

She pinched my cheeks as she switched to a more endearing tone “Thank you, you are the best!

And those big glasses! God, I wanted to laugh! She turned around announcing her exit only to abruptly stop short.

Oops, I almost forgot,” she said as she reached into her purse, “here is the key, and a little something for you.”

And that little something was a generous stipend. What would I turn it into? Firecrackers? Water balloons? Candy? The possibilities were endless! All I knew is that now I felt committed to making sure her flowers received the best care possible during her absence.

And the next morning, loyal to my commitment I went to water the flowers. The sun was already high, beating with its relentless white heat. I had planned for the task to take me only a couple of minutes, and then I’d be on my merry way. The smell of grease on metal was unequivocal. Heavy bronze lock and handle covered, cool to the touch, funny on the hands. It was attached to a large, heavy, lacquered wood door guarding entrance to the house. I inserted the key and turned it. The sequential click revealed the door was unlocked and I pulled it to gain entry.

Except the door would not open.

I wiggled the key in again. It turned easily. The door was unlocked. So I pulled again, and just like before, the door would not budge.

Is the door that heavy?’ I thought, ‘I’m going to have to pull harder!

And so I did, again to no avail. The struggle went on for fifteen minutes of tenacious fight. The door would not yield and I would not surrender. The heat was relentless. I was sweating. I could feel my face flush, cheeks on fire, the white sun ever punishing. Even when I closed my eyes, the orange glow in my eyelids revealed the incandescent orb could not be tamed.

My hands hurt. They were red with creases etched by the struggle and covered by the greasy, black grime from the bronze door-handle. I started to panic.

Oh, my God!’ I thought, ‘the flowers are going to die!

How would I face my neighbor? What would I tell her? My mom and dad were at work and there was nobody to help me. I pictured the flowers wilting, and I pictured my neighbor returning, her smile fading into a mouth ajar with terror at the sight of her moribund garden, her sorrow concealed by her wide-brimmed hat and her bug-eye sunglasses. What was I to do? I had no choice but to climb to the roof and then climb down to her house. It was going to take time and I was going to get really dirty. Did not matter, I was drenched in sweat already.

I resolved on my plan and I took a few seconds to rest before commencing. I leaned on the merciless heavy door for a respite.

Suddenly, I had to catch myself as I almost fell backwards. To my stupor, the door had opened.

A sense of relief and awe came together. The heat was no longer that merciless, I felt a cool breeze bring forgiving relief, and everything looked brighter. And I laughed a laugh of hysteria.

How immensely stupid I felt!

All this time I was pulling on a door that had to be PUSHED to open. The doors in my house opened by pulling and that’s what I assumed about her house. All that effort, all that struggle had clouded my judgment and had prevented me from thinking of the logical solution. I kept pondering on my embarrassment and my relief as I watered the flowers, shaking my head in disbelief.

That’s a lesson I have never forgotten.

No matter how good the intentions, no matter how great the effort, it is all for naught if the erroneous approach is taken. I keep this in mind as I approach problems and whenever I feel stuck, I remember that when the efforts are properly directed, results happen reliably and without struggle. This is something I communicate to my pain therapy patients and strength and conditioning clients. Many of them are frustrated with their results because they are pulling on doors that need to be pushed. Their efforts and perseverance are commendable but useless. A few hesitate when they realize that often, the solution is different from what they thought, but they go on with the changes and improve their lives.

How many pushing doors have you been pulling? I’m sure many, as we all have at one point or another. And here’s the more important question; were you pulling because you did not know you had to push? Or were you pulling despite being told you had to push?

I hope my experience helps you as you make your decisions and prevents you from making the mistakes I made. Until next time, happy training and I’ll see you on the exercise floor.

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