Does the name R. U. Harby ring any bells? R. U. Harby had an uncle who had the gold-fever. So the two of them went west (Colorado) and staked a claim. The work was back-breaking, but in a short time they hit a vein. It was clear they would need some additional machinery to bring it to the surface, so they went back home (Maryland) to raise the needed support.


Once back at the mine, work started again and they were rewarded with a car of ore that put stars in their eyes. It was going to be great! But as they continued working a funny thing happened – the vein disappeared. They kept drilling, looking, hoping, and looking some more. But nothing. After some discussions, R. U. Harby and his uncle made the decision to quit. They sold their machinery to a junk dealer and left, just like that.


Well, this junk dealer had a mining engineer come in to assess the situation. The engineer’s report indicated that Harby and his uncle had no knowledge of “fault lines” and so that’s why they didn’t know where to look. The engineer determined that three feet from where they stopped drilling is where the vein would show itself again. So the junk dealer dug three feet beyond their last effort, and there it was, just like the engineer said. Mr. junk dealer went on to make millions off that mine. And R. U. Harby and his uncle? They wanted to kick themselves, they were so close. But they quit.


There are times when motivational stories are so corny they make me sick. But this one has always stuck with me 1) because it’s a true story, and 2) because I’ve seen similar scenarios play out in my own life. There have been times when I was really close to a breakthrough or a new opportunity of some sort, but I stopped short because I was tired, or I couldn’t clearly see the next step, or I was just plain afraid. Then someone came behind me and made the breakthrough or got the new job or whatever. And why? Well, it was because they simply had the grit to keep going. They out-gritted me. It was always a little more than three literal feet, but I think you get the point.

Now let’s be honest. Sometimes it’s wise to quit. If you’ve totally petered-out of passion for a project or another opportunity has been thrown your way that’s got your heart-rate in it’s target zone, then the honest-to-God smart thing to do may be to sell your equipment and get out. There are times like that. But there may be many more times when the name of the game is sheer perseverance, keep-digging-boys, be grittier than the next guy, don’t-give-up-now-you’re-so-close. We may not always like hearing that because it involves more work when it looks like the door is closed. But just on the other side of that door may be gold.


*story is found in Three Feet From Gold, Sterling Publishers, 2011.