Stormy Road Ahead

Congratulations, You’re In The Desert

I can’t tell you how many of our student-athletes I’ve annoyed over the years as they sit in my office distraught over some boulder life has thrown in their path. As they sit downtrodden, tears streaming, totally deflated by the latest challenge, I look into their sad eyes with a twinkle of excitement and say, “This is going to be Amazing!”

NOT what they expect or want to hear. I continue, “You’re in the Desert!”

“Yes Miss Val, and it sucks!”

“Noooooooooo—this is sooooo cool!
THIS is when you will prove how amazing you are.
THIS is exactly where you need to be to take that next big step in your life toward greatness.
THIS is where you learn how tough you are and that you can absolutely rely on yourself.
THIS is where you fall in love with YOU.
THIS is when you learn to quiet all of the outside voices of negativity and resolve to build yourself up from the inside out, one day at a time.
THIS is when the most exciting ‘magical’ transformations happen… in the Desert.

The greatest example of the transformational power of the Desert is Jesus. Jesus didn’t find himself in the Desert but instead was led there by the Spirit to deal with the temptation of evil.

Winston Churchill said, “Those destined for greatness must first walk in the Desert.

Walt Disney was once fired for not having enough creativity. I imagine his Desert was filled with visions of enchanting characters that exuded wonder and goodness through their imperfectness.

Michael Jordan tried out for the varsity basketball team at his high school as a Sophomore and didn’t make it (his taller friend did). He has recounted the story, saying he went home and cried, but then used that chip on his shoulder to fuel his greatness.

Studies done at Harvard have concluded that the greatest predictor of eventual greatness is the ability to embrace the struggle through the Desert. Those who can embrace the fact that what they learn during this time is exactly what will eventually catapult them to greatness are the ones who prove perseverance, hustle and an attitude of gratitude are the riches earned that will take them out of the Desert and into their own personal, inimitable greatness.

One of my favorite student-athlete stories of the Desert is Jeanette Antolin. Halfway through her freshman year I saw her laying on her back in the gym during training. I went up to her and asked, “What’s up?”

She looked at me and said, “Miss Val, I don’t ever want anyone to tell me what to do EVER again.”

I chuckled a bit and replied, “Well honey, then I think you need to go find a desert island to live on because that’s just not how life works.”

She proceeded to do a few more things that eventually got her kicked off the team and her scholarship stripped. She was definitely IN THE DESERT!

She sobbed in my office and followed me to the gym, clutched my arm and continued to sob and plead with me to change my mind. It was at that point that everything became so clear to me. Jeanette was in the Desert. I looked at her and said, “Jeanette, this is going to be the best year of your life.”

Jeanette did not want to hear that, did not understand it and I’m fairly certain that at that moment I was not one of her favorite people. But… I was right! With no one to bail her out and pay for her schooling, rent, etc. Jeanette got student loans and immediately did what was needed to become a licensed athletic performance trainer. She worked with clients in the early morning, kept going to classes at UCLA, and went back to work at night. About 6 months later a few of the girls on the team came to my office and said they wanted me to reconsider letting Jeanette back on the team.

They all confirmed she had “really” changed. She was motivated, excited about life, and happy. What I didn’t know was that she had been going into the open recreational gym at night to train. I told the girls in my office to tell Jeanette I’d stop by open gym sometime soon. I’ll never forget trying to keep my eyeballs from bulging out of my face when I saw her blast a sky high vault. “Uhhhhhhhh OK… I’ll meet with her.” Jeanette joined our team mid-season that year—without a scholarship—and not only helped our team win an NCAA Championship, but became a strong leader for the remainder of her time on our team.

There will be times in life when a drought will wash over you and you’ll find yourself in the Desert. Just remember it will be painful, but it truly is a gift.
The Desert always invites pivotal motion.
The Desert challenges our potential.
The Desert offers a place to shut down, regroup, and come out better than we went in.

I don’t look forward to my next stint in the Desert, but I don’t fear it either. I know when that time comes I’m fully equipped to get through it and come out a better version of me.

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Hayley
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Hayley

I’m so glad I stumbled upon this post again today. Funnily enough, when you first posted this I wasn’t in the desert but, unfortunately, I definitely am now after my boyfriend broke up with me over Easter. Although I’m dealing with a lot of fear right now as my short, medium, and long-term have all changed I’m trying to look at this latest setback with brand new eyes. Although we’re not always in the desert because of our own deeds, this time i definitely am. But I realise now that if I’d never had this setback I would never taken… Read more »

Heather
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Heather

I watched a video awhile back (a Bruin Banter with Danusia I believe) where you discussed an experience with a stranger en route to a treatment. The positive perspective you shared with them on how you “get to have chemo” made me re-evaluate how I viewed my own health challenges . I have definitely spent time in ‘the desert’ and the feelings of frustration and defeat are all too familiar. Sometimes it’s what you need to hear rather than what you want to hear that makes you adjust your mindset. Thank you for the reminder (and challenge) to persevere through… Read more »

Alyssa
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Alyssa

I typically read your musings as soon as they’re posted, but I happened to miss this one. I’m so happy I did because this is just what I needed today, as I have recently found myself in the Desert. Thank you for this, Miss Val.

Andrew
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Andrew

What a profound, encouraging, and challenging post, all at once. Thank you for posting this, Miss Val. Glad to know that your leadership, example, and life is founded on The Rock! Make me even more of a fan of you and your team.

Kelli
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Kelli

Whenever I’ve been in a situation that I knew would take me through the desert I immediately make peace with the fact that I’m going to have to endure some pretty crappy stuff to get to where I want to be. I think that’s my way of taking control of the situation & walking through the desert on my own terms.

Brittany
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Brittany

I have been in the desert a few times and, looking back, I can say that I am glad for the experiences that I had. Growing up I struggled with math and was tested for dyslexia when I was in grade school because I just couldn’t learn my multiplication math facts (I eventually did with the help of a cassette tape and a very patient mother). I didn’t have dyslexia but I never felt that I was smart. My brother was the “smart one” and was placed in a program for gifted students while I am pretty sure that I… Read more »

Emily
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Emily

Love this so much. I have been in the desert a few times and it’s true that when you come out of it, you often realize there was a purpose for it all. When I was applying to law schools, I was rejected from my dream school, which was actually my undergraduate school. My LSAT scores were not high enough. I was devastated. I worked a crummy job for a year to retake the test, only to get an even worse score. I couldn’t understand why I had such horrible “luck.” I felt so lost. I was only accepted to… Read more »

Lee
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Lee

Thanks for this musing. I have been doing several studies on the biblical desert recently, but this encapsulated them all so beautifully. I was born with a disability, but I always knew that God was using that challenge to teach me perseverance, compassion, kindness, and a larger perspective which would serve me in my calling to be a physician. It didn’t make the doctors and surgery easy, but it gave me a hope and a purpose. Now I have been a practicing physician for a number of years and see the beauty firsthand that came from the ashes when I… Read more »

Chrisanna
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Chrisanna

This is an absolutely amazing post. I really needed this. I’m in the desert and I’m surviving. Thank you for this perspective.

Newton Oluwaseun Abigail
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Newton Oluwaseun Abigail

Thank you miss Val. I have followed you and your musings. And I keep getting inspired. It’s amazing how much you can influence someone thousands of miles apart. Been thrown in the desert in the past but did not have this knowledge then. Like you said am not looking forward to my next desert but I know am better prepared when it comes. Good luck at the regionals this weekend.