Joseph P. Klock
Well, not much, really. Although it gets hot and it may develop some little pinpoint bubbles, for the most part it just lays there in the pot. But add just one more degree, an increase in heat of less than one-half of one percent, and that same water begins to boil. The steam generated by the boiling water can lift the lid of a tea kettle or drive a huge turbine engine. One degree of heat makes the difference.
In life often the margin is just as slender between success and failure, winning and losing, mediocrity and excellence.
Peter Vidmar, the great American gymnast, told me that in the 1984 Olympics he missed winning a silver medal by 25 one-thousandths of a point, a difference half as great as the difference between hot water and steam.
In the 1988 Olympics, American swimmer Matt Biondi lost the 100-meter Butterfly event by one one-hundredth of a second. The loser in a 50-mile bicycle race was exactly one inch behind the winner.
In those same Olympics, Mary Lou Rettin won a gold medal by five one-hundredths of a point. And many of us saw her get a perfect 10 in the vault -- a 10 that she had to get in order to win.
What does this teach us about our own lives? Simply that it's the last little bit of effort that will always make the difference between success and failure. The losers in this world never seem to realize how close they are to winning just before they give up -- and the winners never forget that an extra effort at the end is often the slender margin of victory.
When you're tempted to give up, to settle for less than your best effort, turn on that extra burst of energy, that extra degree of fire that gives you the satisfaction of knowing -- win or lose --you have done your very best.