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A story from The Push

When my son Mark was eight years old, his third grade teacher announced a class spelling bee, the prize being a pizza lunch for the champ plus three friends. Mark wanted to win that contest badly. He could practically taste the pizza, hot with stringy cheese and pepperoni circles.

In honor of the spelling bee, Mark actually agreed to a haircut, and before he changed his mind, I whisked him off to the barbershop.

"Make it a lucky cut," I instructed barber Joe. "Mark's competing in a very important spelling bee next week."

"Well, did ya do your homework?" barber Joe asked.

"Yup." Mark replied.

"Did ya study hard?" barber Joe asked.

"Yup." Mark replied.

"Do ya have confidence?" barber Joe asked.

"Confidence. C-O-N-F-I-D-E-N-C-E. Confidence. A lot of people spell that one wrong," Mark explained.

"Sure. You can spell it," barber Joe responded. "But do you have it? Ya gotta have confidence in yourself, son. It's a winner's secret weapon."

Mark looked at barber Joe's reflection in the mirror, being very careful to move only his eyes and not his head for fear of losing a piece of ear to barber Joe's snipping shears. "The secret weapon, huh? Confidence!" And with that, Mark added a new catchphrase to his bag of tricks: I before e except after c; dessert has two Ss because you always want seconds; I CAN WIN THE SPELLING BEE!

And he did. And the pizza was heaven. And Mark never forgot barber Joe's words: "Ya gotta have confidence in yourself, son. It's a winner's secret weapon."

Decades later, after creating his own firm and establishing himself as a respected-albeit revolutionary-architect, Mark began receiving interview requests. Magazines loved to feature his uncanny ability to seamlessly blend cutting edge technology with old-world architectural details-sort of 1800s Painted Lady meets Dubai's 21st century Emirates Office Tower. Appropriately enough, Mark named his firm Archi-Tech.

Settling back to discuss his design approach with one particular feature writer, the reporter led with a question that almost stumped Mark. "You're considered a maverick in the world of architecture. When everyone around says it can't be done, what makes you think you can pull it off?"

After thinking a bit, Mark replied,

"Confidence. After I've done my homework, and studied my idea from every possible angle, if I still see it then I know the only thing standing between me and success is confidence. Yup, confidence. It's a winner's secret weapon."

With that, Mark swept his hand across his forehead and brushed a scruffy tuft of hair out of his eyes. "That reminds me," he said with a wink and a smile, "I need a hair cut."

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