Glenn Cunningham was just 8 years old, and his brother Floyd, 13, when they were caught in an explosion at their Kansas schoolhouse. Floyd was killed and Glenn’s lower body horribly burned. He lost all the flesh on his knees and shins, as well as all the toes on his left foot, and his transverse arch was almost entirely gone. The doctors, concerned with spreading infections, advised amputation of both legs.
After the doctors left, Cunningham overheard a neighbor woman tell his mother, “You might as well face it. Glenn’s gonna be an invalid for the rest of his life.” It was at that moment that Glenn Cunningham made one of the biggest decisions of his life. When his mother came into his room he told her, “I’m NOT going to be an invalid! That lady’s wrong!” As his mother hugged him, he kept repeating, “I will walk! I will walk!”
Over the next two years, his parents faithfully changed his bandages, massaged his legs, and nursed him back to health. Then one day, holding onto a chair, he stood upright. A neighbor boy saw and said, “Aw, you ain’t never gonna walk again.”
Holding onto chairs and fences, Cunningham continued willing his crooked legs to work. Eventually he would grab a milk cow or mule’s tail, taking weight off his legs, and running behind as the animals went to water. Although unable to straighten out his right leg, and admitting that every step was “like daggers,” Cunningham soon realized that running was less painful than walking.
With constant effort and determination, Cunningham became a good runner. And then, with more time and practice, he became a great runner. As a high school senior he set the state record for the mile in 4:28.3. He soon followed up that accomplishment by setting a new world record for the interscholastic mile at 4:24.7.
Cunningham would go on to run track for Kansas University, where he set a new world record for the mile of 4:06.7. He also competed in the 1932 and 1936 Olympics, where he finished fourth and second respectively in the 1,500-meter race.
The scars on his Cunningham’s legs were visible each time he ran. Reporters would always ask about the fire and his painful rehabilitation. His response was always the same, “Mother and Father brought us up to never complain. I just always figured that I needed to do my best and never quit. Complaining about something I had no control over would have diminished what I was trying to do. I just wanted to let my running speak for itself.”
Cunningham’s life holds a lesson for everyone striving to improve in their careers, especially in IT. Studying new concepts and systems is often difficult, more so when you are working full-time and dealing with the vicissitudes of life. Regardless of the hurdles life throws in your path, do your best and never quit. Set your mind on the goal and work every day towards reaching it.
A certification can open your career to new opportunities, greater pay and a more fulfilling life. Never doubt your ability to achieve that certification. When the going gets rough and you fear the exam is beyond your abilities, do as Glenn Cunningham would do — keep telling yourself, “I will. I will.”
About the Author — Calvin Harper is an associate editor for GoCertify and a veteran of the publishing industry. Calvin can also do a four-minute mile, but he has to drive for a couple of blocks first to get the engine of his old Chevy Suburban good and warmed up.