Exceptional You 2.0: if I get to five

Naomi was only four when she arrived at Beth Israel Hospital in New York City. She had a complicated brain tumor that was wrapped around two arteries. This was over 25 years ago and pediatric neurosurgery was still in its infancy.

Dr. Fred Epstein, the founding director of the institute, was commissioned to removed Naomi’s tumor in the course of two delicate surgeries that were both deemed “a long shot.”

After Naomi survived the first surgery, this feisty girl with dancing eyes and a bandaged head pronounced:

“if I get to five, I’m going to learn how to ride a two wheeler!”

Each day leading up to the next surgery as Dr. Epstein made his rounds, there was Naomi making her bold statements:

Monday: If I get to five, I’m going to beat my older brother at tic-tac-toe!


Tuesday: If I get to five, I’m going learn to tie my shoes in double knots!

Wednesday: If I get to five, I’m going to learn to jump rope backwards!

What Dr. Epstein was learning from this courageous little four-year-old girl was :

  1. You can draw courage from a four-year-old
  2. Courage is greater than fear
  3. She knew that getting to five was an “if” and not a “when” proposition

Naomi understood that in order to get to five years old, she needed to look forward to the next level of mastery, like learning to tie her shoes in double knots or learning to jump rope backwards.

Naomi survived both surgeries and although there was some brain damage, her courage has sustained her. She has since stayed very close to Dr. Epstein.

Exceptional You 2.0 Question

You must be honest- How are you doing with determination to embrace the next stages of your life?

To get to that next level and next stage in business and leadership, it will require the pursuit and mastery of new skills!

Naomi reminds us that even when “inoperable” is stamped across our lives, we need to strengthen our resolve to never give up. She was determined to make it to five so that she could learn new skills. We must strengthen our resolve to never give up in dire situations, not on a child, not on a relationship, not on our business, and especially not on our dreams, no matter how daunting the next challenge is. Just go for it!

I am sure if you are like me, life can get pretty messy and mundane at times. At other times, it can become overwhelming and burdensome.

But children, like the elderly, can teach us about courage and character. For one thing, children live life in the moment, they usually take on just today. Remember, today matters! And the elderly, well the aged don’t have the strength to live much more beyond today. Like Grandma Gutzler used to tell me, “I am just happy to be alive today.”

Six Take-Away Truths from Naomi and Dr. Epstein

  1. Hold someone’s hand
    “We can do no great things. Only small things with great love” Mother Teresa
  2. Live in the moment
    “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time” Abraham Lincoln
  3. Face your Fears
    “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear” Ambrose Redmoon
  4. Believe in Miracles
    “Sometimes children teach us character, other times they teach us child-like truth which leads to miracles.” Steve Gutzler
  5. Play your Strengths
    “I don’t think I shall easily bow down before the blows that inevitably come to everyone” Ann Frank
  6. Love without Boundaries
    “Now I know I’ve got a heart, because it is breaking.” Tin Woodman from the Wizard of Oz

The Book:
if I get to five- what children can teach us about courage and character.
By Dr. Fred Epstein, MD

Today matters, live it with fresh courage, faith, and child-like determination.
Be the Exceptional You 2.0

7 responses to “Exceptional You 2.0: if I get to five

  1. Steve, Courage is ageless. I have witnessed it in small children. I have witnessed it in aged saints getting ready to breathe their last breath. Thank you for this reminder to walk in this timeless virtue. Beautiful post my brother.

  2. “3. She knew that getting to five was an “if” and not a “when” proposition” Wow. Just… Well… Wow! Great writing, Steve.

    Makes me consider the idea of how vulnerability and strength are enmeshed, i.e. it’s by considering and acknowledging our vulnerability that we are able to find our strength… or something like that:-)

  3. The wisdom and grace of children facing profound life challenges, like Naomi did, are what teach us adults what is most important in life. Courage comes at the most unexpected times and in unsuspecting ways. I cannot wait to read this book. Have just ordered it for myself on Amazon. Thank you!

  4. Wonderful and exactly what I know yet really needed to read on exactly this day! namaste!

  5. Hi Steve. As you know already, I really enjoyed this post. It is amazing what we can all learn from children. I learn from my three young boys every day! Of course – I write about this a great deal on my own blog. Wisdom does not only come from those with long life experiences. Sometimes the fresh minds of the young can look at life in ways that adults find most challenging. Like Michelle mentioned above, this book is now on my “to read” list! Smiles…Lora

  6. Pingback: Steve’s Favorites: “If I get to Five” | Steve Gutzler

  7. Pingback: Steve’s Favorites: If I Get to Five | Steve Gutzler

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