Julia Ilowiecki and I went to the same high school: Troy High School in that beautiful city of Troy, New York. We hadn't seen each other much since high school graduation, but we met up for lunch yesterday. As she told me what she's been doing for the past few years, I thought, "She's a good example of a leader."
Julia joined the Troy High School diving team when she was 16 and a junior in high school. She had experience as a gymnast, so she was pretty good at diving from the start. But she wanted to be much better: she wanted to attend the University of Miami, and she wanted to dive for their team. You college football fans will know that U. Miami is a huge Division 1 school. Most of the divers there are trying to get into the Olympics, and the coaches are Olympic-level coaches. And here was Julia, with two years of high school experience, trying to make the team.
She applied and was accepted to U. Miami--that's not easy in itself. Then she went to the diving coach and told him, "I want to join your team." Here's what the coach said: "Look, Julia, I know what you're capable of, and you're not that good yet. You're going to need to improve a lot to make the team. And the new season is starting, so I don't have time to coach you. But if you really want to do this, you can go dive with our high school team for the next semester. If you do well, maybe you can make this team by the spring."
Julia wasn't in high school anymore. She was a college student at the University of Miami. The coach had essentially told her that she needed to go dive with 14- and 15-year-olds for another five months. Yes, they were good high school divers, and the high school coaches were excellent, but this was a high school team, and Julia was in college.
But Julia did it. She went and dove with high school divers for an entire semester. She improved tremendously. When she went back to the college coach, he accepted her. She'd made the University of Miami diving team! But the hard work wasn't over. Competing on a Division 1 athletic team is like a full-time job. So Julia had to practice for hours every day, and she still had to attend all her classes, get her homework done, and be a good friend to the people she cared about. It was frustrating for her, but it was worth it.
After two years, Julia injured her hip in such a way that she needed to stop diving. By then, though, she was also pursuing other goals. She studied broadcast journalism, and she became an intern at ABC's Good Morning America in New York City during her senior year. She worked for ABC after she graduated from U. Miami.
But she also wanted to be a musician. She started writing piano pop/rock songs and, before long, she was playing solo shows in New York. She has been performing in New York and around the country for more than two years. She hasn't heard her music on the radio much yet, but she's been practicing constantly and writing new songs often. She sounds better than ever. You can listen to her music on Myspace.
Julia is persistent. She hasn't given up when she has faced challenges. She has a lot of talent, but she realizes she needs to work hard and continue to improve.
Can you relate to Julia? Are there times when you've had to work hard to achieve a goal? How did you feel as you worked? Did you accomplish your goal? How did it feel when you achieved your goal (or didn't)? Imagine yourself in Julia's shoes: could you have done what she did on the diving team?