Push The Carpet Tiles: What Finishing a Basement Taught Me About Success

Finishing a basement, when its been your personal throw everything down there unwanted and obsolete storage space, is a process. Lessons about architecture layout, hardware and the functions behind the walls that make indoor spaces livable are free for learning. Surprisingly, it educated me more deeply about spiritual lessons about fulfillment and success.

With my contractor uncle having some free time, and my creative father conceiving ways to reimagine our basement, my parents decided to build two rooms downstairs – one for me, the other for my mother. After they were built, wood studies, drywall, and coats of primer and white paint, my mom took over finishing them, including the flooring. She decided on carpet tiles. Once she ordered them and brought them from their Dalton home, we had to lug them into the house.

With these heavy square boxes looking and feeling at least twice as heavy as the luggage for those moving overseas, I was not enthused. But I knew with the two of us, we could get it done. Until we got to the basement door, I was content with getting the tiles to the door, because I figured we did the job. From the curb on the street, across the lawn, over that stubborn tree root, we got them to where they needed to be, right to the basement, albeit outside and probably less than two feet from the door. The last obstacle, a green hose with the length of trapeze rope and the girth of an anaconda, would just be the one I didn’t get over.

My mother, however, had other plans. At this point, with me deciding to forfeit, my mother pushed on. She was the one who was going to lay the carpet down and she knew she couldn’t get the tiles from outside to inside without any help. In my mind, it didn’t matter; I could help her, but she was determined.

She pulled and gnashed and heaved the hand truck the rest of the two feet I was ready to surrender and we got them into the basement. This could have been a benign moment, one where we finished the job and moved on to the rest of the day. it revealed to me a greater lesson about grit, about dogged perseverance, pushing until you get what you need.

It resonated with me because it troubled me. Reflecting on my pitiful effort, I recognized that many of these decisions about my professional and interpersonal life rely on factors outside of my control. How eager I was to give up on moving the carpet tiles inside – when I was in control of the situation – shows how eager I can be to give up on something else, particularly things not in my control, when dedication is even more important. Thus, developing resiliency and grit is crucial to enduring adversity and disappointments, the inevitable trying times when things don’t go my way, so that I can be prepared for, recognize, and seize opportunities that will propel me toward my best self.

The ultimate lesson: Push those carpet tiles in your life. When you get that unyielding tree root-like obstacle, push. When it seems you can’t push any more, push.

Actor Will Smith speaks about my experience most eloquently: “the distance between you and success isn’t necessarily a yard – it’s an itch. But getting that final inch is excruciating. You have to stay committed.” When you want to give up, stay committed and PUSH. Push once more and once more, again. Truth and goodness and fulfillment lie just beyond that threshold.


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