14 Shvat 5779 / Sunday, January 20, 2019 | Torah Reading: Yitro
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The First Step    

The First Step

Stanley dreams of being another LeBron James. Wow, what would it be like to play in the NBA for Miami? But he sighs, and pops open another Coke. "I'll never succeed," he sighs...


Glued to the TV, Stanley groans as his hero LeBron James just missed his second free-throw. With only one minute left in the fourth quarter, his favorite basketball team, the Miami Heat, is leading the Washington Wizards by one point. The coach calls a timeout; Gillette now has its 30-second say. Meanwhile, Stanley flips open the pop-top of his third can of Coke since the game started and tears into another family-size bag of Fritos. Star of the commercial LeBron James appears on the screen, not on the basketball court but this time in his Hilton-style locker room where he's refreshing himself with Clear Gel Arctic Ice anti-perspirant. Stanley wishes that he could be just like LeBron. But where LeBron is 6'8” and 250 pounds, Stanley is 5'7” and 265 pounds. And, where LeBron spends eight hours a day training, Stanley spends eight hours a day in front of a TV or computer screen, drinking Cokes and munching Fritos. “I'll never be a LeBron,” he sighs. “I'll never be a decent athlete, either. I wish I could...”
Sure, Stanley would love to be a top athlete. He doesn't enjoy looking at himself in the mirror, eighteen years old with a midsection that looks like a potato sack stuffed with vanilla custard and a complexion that looks like a pizza topped with anchovies.
The game resumes and the tension is high. The camera zooms in on LeBron's arms, which look like brown twisted steel. Stanley's heart aches as he flexes his own flabby arm; all that pops up amidst the surrounding gobs of blubber is a tiny muscle the size of a ping-pong ball. By the time he snaps out of his daydream, Stanley is really depressed; the Wizards score with one second left in the game, beating the Heat by a point.
Stanley flicks off the TV and goes back to playing Dota 2 on his widescreen Mac.
Stanley sees no contradiction between his dream of being LeBron #2 and between the hours he wastes playing Dota 2. He's willing to do anything as long as it's instantly gratifying and effortless. Many of his peers are the same way. Stanley hangs out on the weekends with other boys just like himself, going to movies and eating Big Macs. They're all wishers, but they're just not doers. They waste hour after hour and day after day.
There's only one reason why Stanley can't be LeBron James – the Creator gave him a different chassis than He did LeBron. Stanley is 13 inches shorter! OK, so Stanley won't play in the NBA, but he could still be a top athlete.
All he has to do is take the first step; get off the sofa, put on his sneakers, and walk around the block. If I were Stanley's personal coach, I'd move him up gradually from ten minutes to an hour of daily walking. I'd wean him off the Cokes and junk food and put him on a healthy diet. In 90 days, he'd lose a minimum of 20 pounds. Then, I'd have him start jogging for a few minutes a day, lifting weights and doing calisthenics. Gradually, in one year's time and with perseverance, he'd simultaneously reach a milestone of a ten-mile run and he'd weigh no more than 165.
Rebbe Nachman teaches that the most critical act in life is one's first step. In physics, the thrust required to move a train its first few meters is greater than the energy required to keep it moving an entire kilometer once it has already accelerated. Likewise, the first step is the hardest in anything we do in life, but it's the path to success.
People envy someone with a great mansion, but they never lay the first brick.
Others groan that they'll never succeed in learning an entire 2711-page Gemara, but they never open the first or learn the first word.
The greatest Olympic sprinter was once a baby who took a first shaky step.
The first note that Yitzchak Perlman ever played on his violin was a squeaky one, but it was the beginning of a virtuoso.
My wife is considered one of the best bakers in all of Chassidic Israel, but her first challahs were harder to bite into than Howitzer shells.
Don't be discouraged; to be a champion, you must take the first step.
Pick up your Gemara. Put on your running shoes. Kneed the dough. Sign up for the course. Declare a new beginning and take that first step. Success is only a matter of time. I believe in you - you can do it!
* * *
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