Friday, October 27, 2006

Epilogue: The Role of Expectations in Customized Employment

Only an hour or so after I uploaded my recent post Thomas Jefferson: The Author of Customized Employment, I received a telephone call from my daughter Kelly Lavin. As I have shared here before, Kelly is an employment specialist who works for Kaposia, Inc. in St. Paul, Minnesota. Kelly was calling me from Illinois where she had just finished running in the Chicago Marathon on Sunday. It was Kelly's first marathon and she had trained hard for months to compete in it. She finished the race successfully but shared with me her internal doubts and struggles during the race.
Kelly indicated that she found herself "hitting the wall" at a certain stage of the race and was laboring to continue. It was a horrible internal fight between her mind and physical strength. She said she wasn't sure at one point that she would be able to finish the race. Suddenly, another runner could see that Kelly was struggling by the look on her face. He came over and took the time to offer his encouragement. He looked directly at her and said: "You are going to finish this race! I can see you crossing the line. I will see you there."
There were musical bands stationed along the route and throngs of people cheering on all of the Chicago Marathon runners. But for Kelly this was different. This was one person taking his time to offer encouragement to another person going in the same direction and with the same goal. Kelly fought through her internal doubts and crossed the line successfully after running 26.2 miles. And she was calling home to share her excitement with me in meeting her goal.
What I found interesting in Kelly's story is that she remembered the comments of one encouraging runner. He took an interest and set expectations of her that were like a wind at her back the rest of the way. It made the difference.
You know, it's not much different in our own work as customized employment providers. Sometimes we labor to find integrated employment in the workforce or just the right supports to make it work for some individuals. And sometimes it feels like we are running a marathon.
To achieve success, it starts with having a definable goal. It means being willing to take calculated risks. And it takes the right level of preparation and endurance to run the race. For many, it takes encouragement and high expectations from others in their circle of family, friends, and acquaintances. And finally, it takes a persistence and will to go on and finish the race to its conclusion.
Shoot high and never give up! It's a formula that works no matter what our goal.

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