Iron Will

Hey kids,

It’s been snowing here in #louisvilleky, and your mom has been having bad dreams, so I put in a lighthearted movie for her to fall asleep to. It’s one of her childhood favorites. I remember seeing this in the theaters and before going in, my sister saw the poster and said, “This isn’t another one of those sad movies where the dog dies at the end, is it?” Which is weird, because I don’t know any other movie she would have seen where that happens, except Old Yeller. Not like Old Yeller was a popular trend.

This movie is about a boy who competes in a sled-dog race in 1917 in order to win $10,000.

Anyway, this movie came out in the early 90’s and I believe is part of the propaganda that infiltrated impressionable young American minds back then: If you want something bad enough, you’ll get it. That’s what the dad says to his son in this movie, and that’s nothing you’ll ever hear me tell you, because that’s a lie.

Sure, hard work and dedication are important virtues, but there’s something that’s left out of that equation if you want success: luck, the right connections, timing, natural charisma, more luck, more of the right connections, more perfect timing, squashing the competion, more natural charisma, and money. You need lots of money to make lots of money. And let’s be honest, most of those things are achieved by lying, cheating, and stealing.

Plumbers and Amazon delivery drivers and janitors have an abundance of good work ethic and dedication. Fortunately for them, they’ve found success in other areas of life, such as love and their hobbies and friends. Or so I hope. No wonder Jesus blesses the lowly.

I was a casualty of this want-it-bad-enough-and-you’ll-get-it mindset and that all you need is hard work and dedication. But after many years of trying to publish my books, or get promoted at my jobs, I finally had to realize that this whole idea of having an “iron will” – this idea of, “If you want it bad enough, you’ll get it” – is a bunch of bull crap.

I’m not trying to be cynical or dampen your spirits. I’m just stating the truth. Katherine, when you were a baby, I’d sing all sort of songs to you, and I remember changing the lyrics if a song stated you can grow up and be anything you want to be. When I was in school, we were told that we could be astronauts if we wanted to be. Do you know how many people have gone to space? Only three people have reached sub-orbital flight, and only twenty-four people have traveled beyond low Earth orbit, and only twelve people have walked on the moon. That’s not mentioning the eighteen people who have either died in space or died preparing to go there.

Think about all the other men that competed in this race. Clearly the bald Russian guy wanted to win more than our ol’ friend Iron Will, because he was willing to kill people to get it. History is fraught with losers, and the headlines are only about the winners.

(You want a tremendous alternative to this movie? Re-watch Cool Runnings. That movie is solid, honest, and more historically accurate.)

Sadly, the world is much more complicated than just wanting something and then getting it. It can happen, but there are lots of obstacles to hurdle, and in the end, you’ve got to be able to answer to yourself if it’s all really worth it.

Want to know what I heard our pastor Kevin Jamison say in church a few months ago? Keep in mind, I’d spent my whole life being told to change the world, make a difference, blah, blah, blah. I thought that by publishing my books, I’d become a best-selling author and our lives would be set forever. Then our pastor quoted a verse I’d never heard preached before: “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands…” That’s Paul from 1 Thessalonians 4:11. When I heard that, I suddenly felt more freedom than I’d ever felt in my life. All that pressure to make lots of money and change the world lifted and I was finally able to just relax. It was shortly after hearing this that I surrendered to God, or better put, God saved me.

But back to the movie. You’ll say, “Dad, this movie is based on a true story.” Wrong again. It’s a real dog-sledding race that happened, but everything else is fictional. You know who the main actor is, though? Neither do I. He’s a whiny brat in the movie, and I couldn’t cheer for him. He acted best when he was speaking to very boring dogs. He’s almost as bad as Jake Lloyd in Phantom Menace. Kevin Spacey was the only saving grace in this movie, really.

You kids watched the last half-hour of this with your mom and me, so I think you got the gist of it. It’s a typical Disney drama from the nineties. I’m wagering that White Fang is going to hold up much better. I’ll probably show that to you guys this weekend, because I have really fond memories of that movie.

And maybe I’ll have a more optimistic lesson to teach you from it.


Published by Andrew Toy

Writer when I'm not being a husband or dad. So mostly just a husband and dad.

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