Determination can take you far in this life. It can, more than most any other factor, ensure that you meet your goals, both small and large, and it can set you on a path to eventually contributing in a big way—contributing both to the lives of others and to your own happiness and legacy.
So, what is determination? Well, let’s first begin with a list of what it isn’t.
Determination isn’t good looks.
Determination isn’t perfect health.
Determination isn’t acceptance from others, or even support, and it isn’t connections.
Determination isn’t money.
Determination isn’t education.
Determination isn’t having the perfect plan.
Determination isn’t youth, or maturity.
Determination isn’t always graceful.
Determination isn’t exclusive to some elite group of people.
And back to the original question. What is determination?
Determination is innate, born inside each of us, waiting to be tapped.
Determination is persistence.
Determination is something that moves forward despite injury, criticism, rejection, or cruelty.
Determination is something that lives deep within your gut, something that knows your life is meant to get better.
Determination is something that gets excited by goals. Determination is something that can renew itself with the morning light.
Determination can be stubborn at times; that is how it is able to plow through barriers.
Determination can be stupid at times; that is how it is able to ignore the dissenting arguments of others.
Determination is your secret weapon; it’s your ace in the hole, and your biggest ally.
Determination is the key to your success.
What goals do you have for your life? What sorts of improvements and accomplishments do you eventually want to see happen for yourself? Maybe you’re currently disappointed because of setbacks. Maybe you’re frightened because of poor health or money problems or a lack of support, and maybe you’re worried because you don’t have a perfect plan for how you’ll ever get from today to a better life.
But guess what? Determination is all you need right now. It’s more important than the perfect set of circumstances. In fact, that’s the beauty of it. Determination actually thrives on difficulties, so if you are experiencing challenges in your life right now, then all the better.
You don’t have to know exactly how you will move forward right now, or exactly what you’re even headed toward. Just set a small goal or two for yourself and don’t let anything stand in your way of reaching those small goals. And if you do that, then larger goals and a bigger picture will eventually show themselves to you.
Don’t ever give up. Stay determined, and good things will happen.
The Suntanned Face of Determination
While I’m on the topic of determination, I’d like to share a bit about a man who is the embodiment of that word, in my mind. His name is Raven (Robert “Raven” Kraft), and he’s run eight miles on Miami’s South Beach every single day since January 1, 1975.
Raven is a legend now. He’s been featured by HBO Real Sports, ESPN, the Wall Street Journal, Runner’s World, Telemundo, and many other media outlets. A book about him called Running with Raven was released in 2017, and I’m currently working with him to write another.
Raven has inspired thousands of people to get serious about their own fitness resolutions, because everyone is invited to run with him; that’s the really cool part! You can show up on any given day, and whoever finishes his eight miles receives a unique nickname from him (mine is Overworked Mind) and becomes a part of his group for life.
I first found out about Raven because I picked up that 2017 book about him from the library, but by this past January I'd already completed my eighth Raven Run with him (who would have thought?).
To date, more than 3,000 people from all of the globe have become certified Raven Runners, and additional hopefuls show up each week to earn their small places in the history books (and in Raven’s handwritten logbooks).
But forty-four years ago, Raven didn't have some master plan to be historical. He didn’t have a four-and-a-half-decade, multistep agenda drawn up with the goal of running over 16,000 days in a row while inspiring thousands and becoming a celebrity.
He simply had determination.
He simply wanted his life to get better, and running seemed to make it better. So he made a “small” plan (small being a relative word here). He made a New Year’s resolution to run each day for an entire year. And then he followed-through on that 1975 resolution despite injury, bad weather, fatigue, and a host of other obstacles. And then his determination led to bigger things.
Raven set out, mostly, to prove something to himself. And after he accomplished that first goal of his, the momentum was set. His determination continued to push him forward, and that New Year’s resolution of his turned into something so much bigger than he ever could have imagined.
Who knows what your small goals might eventually turn into? That’s the point. You don’t have to know right now. You simply have to be determined, and then take a couple of small steps forward.
Below is a piece I wrote about Raven’s experience running through some particularly challenging weather. Over the years he’s run through all sorts of horrific conditions, but this particular essay recounts the day he ran through Hurricane Irma two years ago. Yes, your read that right: the day he ran through a hurricane (actually one of several he's run through).
What sort of man runs in a hurricane to keep his streak alive? A determined one.
I hope that you enjoy this real-life story about a man tussling with the elements. I hope that it inspires you, and I hope that it allows you to get more deeply in touch with the valuable reserves of determination that currently reside within your own gut, just waiting to be tapped.
One Day More (Dancing with Irma)
In early September of 2017, a tropical panic swept across southern Florida as Hurricane Irma spun a determined path across the Atlantic Ocean. The storm made its first landfall on September 6 on the tiny Caribbean island of Barbuda, hitting that population’s northern coast at near peak strength with winds around 180 miles per hour. Ninety-five percent of Barbuda’s buildings and infrastructure were damaged, and the entire populace relocated to neighboring Antigua. For the first time in modern history, the lovely little island of pink-sand beaches sat empty.
After moving on to roil locations that included Saint Martin and the British Virgin Islands, an angry Irma grazed Puerto Rico and the Turks and Caicos Islands before shaking up the Bahamas and pummeling Cuba.
Irma caught her proverbial breath after Cuba—her winds slowed to around 100 miles per hour as she found her bearings—but then she turned northwestward toward Florida, where the Sunshine State nervously awaited her arrival.
By all logical forecasts, Irma was supposed to not only disrupt Florida but decimate at least portions of it. Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency, and over six million residents were ordered to evacuate. Schools, airports, and government offices were closed, and even the Kennedy Space Center and theme parks such as Walt Disney World were shuttered. Nervous Miami residents quickly barricaded their windows with plywood before packing up their children and pets and hitting the temporarily toll-free highways in search of safer lands. They called hotels, family members, and friends, frantically searching for a stable place to ride out the chaos. Flights were hard to come by, but maybe they could drive to Alabama or Mississippi. Maybe they could even head up into the peaceful Midwest.
In Miami Beach, as anxiety and uncertainty hovered in the air like an eerie fog, a stalwart streak runner and accidental guru went about his business, the business of conquering eight miles on the sand every day—every day come rain or shine or Andrew or Charlie or Wilma or Irma. Probably come Irma. He’d survived hurricanes before—in fact, he’d run through them before—but even for a man without newspaper subscriptions or a cell phone (a man who prided himself on living life irrespective of weather reports), the disquieting buzz surrounding Irma’s impending arrival had been difficult to ignore.
Raven wondered about the future of his world as a hidden South Beach dawn broke somewhere behind the gray howl outside. Would his entire way of life wash away in a matter of hours? It was September 10, the day Irma was supposed to sweep into town, and his normally sanguine outlook was beginning to feel stress. The night so far had been a restless one with only light sleep, and now, once again, he was troubled by visions of Atlantic storm surges. What, exactly, would it feel like to have a fifteen-foot wave come crashing into one’s apartment, destroying in an instant every photograph and newspaper article and handwritten chronicle that held a piece of his soul? At the behest of Miracle, his “weather-obsessed” girlfriend who’d been coaching his hurricane-prep efforts by phone, he’d begun packing some of his song lyrics into plastic bags before slipping off to bed. However, he knew there was only so much protection that a few plastic bags could offer. Those efforts had felt a little futile, kind of like trying to plug the expanding cracks of a bursting dam with toothpaste and Silly Putty.
Some people called Raven a pack rat or a hoarder, but such terminology suggested he was following some mindless compulsion with his behavior, which he wasn’t. There was nothing stupid about his gathering and saving, just as there was nothing thoughtless about his having to run every day. Rather, there was a cosmic and very specific reason behind all of it, behind both his Raven Run and the preservation of the myriad items that filled his living space. He was keeping peoples’ spirits alive—keeping fresh air in the lungs of individuals and memories—by curating these things.
But the snarling weather outside didn’t sound like it gave a damn about him or his conservation efforts. It sounded like it wanted to steal his treasures and shatter his routine. All of his letters and passionately crafted song lyrics and meticulously organized running logbooks could be taken from him in a windswept instant.
And more importantly, the Raven Run itself could be taken from him.
Mark Twain supposedly said that the two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why, and on January 1, 1975, Raven had unknowingly begun unearthing a huge portion of his Why. On that date, he’d begun a young man’s resolution to run eight miles every day for an entire year, and unlike all of those people who’d let their paper-thin New Year’s promises blow to oblivion by February, he’d honored his vow. Despite soreness, food poisoning, pneumonia, and the occasional suggestion he was crazy, he hadn’t taken a single day off in 1975. And now, more than four decades later—despite a litany of challenges too surreal for most people to believe—he still hadn’t snuck that day of rest or recovery. His songwriting was important to him, no doubt. He’d been chasing his country-western dreams ever since he was a teenager, amassing nearly 600 copyrights, any one of which might bring him that elusive fame or fortune very soon. But the running streak was different; it was almost more vital to who he was. At this point the streak felt like a lung or some other organ, precious and necessary for life.
Raven was no longer that young man who looked like a 1970s Warren Beatty and ran like a proud gazelle, however, his Raven Run was still an everyday thing. Every. Day. It was a chain that had never been broken. If a single session was missed, would it even exist anymore?
If a single day of the run didn’t happen, would a part of him—perhaps the largest part of him, the deepest part of his Why—begin to fade away, too?
The afternoon was filled with long minutes for Raven. After coaxing his pain-wracked body out of bed in the late-morning hours, he found a swamp of waiting and more of that damned wondering. Outside of his modest basement apartment on Ocean Drive, the wind and rain intensified, their individual voices melding into an ominous chorus that sounded like a warning. That famous Miami Beach sunshine was nowhere to be found. The sky was as dark as Gotham City.
Maybe he should have evacuated—the orders had been given—but seriously, he’d never left the island for a hurricane before, and where would he have gone anyway? And also seriously, the thought of not at least attempting the day’s run on South Beach had never really crossed his mind. Two of his regular runners had promised to brave the day’s storm with him, and who knew, maybe there would even be a couple of newcomers hoping to earn their Raven Run nicknames in this historic weather. It wasn’t likely—and for once, for safety’s sake, he actually hoped he wouldn’t see any fresh faces waiting for him at the Fifth Street lifeguard stand—but then again, he hadn’t run alone in over a dozen years. His run was open invitation, and that invitation was valid every day of the year. Even come hurricane time.
People now counted on him like they counted on gravity and church and the changing of the seasons. This run of his that had grown into something so remarkable—the mayor had once called it “a Miami Beach institution”—had started out as his own, but now it truly belonged to everyone, to anyone who wanted to show up. Years back he’d kept returning every day for his own reasons, but now he had others to consider as well. To date nearly 2,700 runners had joined him. And on any given day another two or three might show up, and the run just might become an important part of their lives, too.
Raven found himself on hold as the minutes ticked past 2:00 p.m. Another media outlet had heard about his running streak. This time it was a radio station from Canada, and its listeners wanted to know: How would this crazy bastard who had run the equivalent of five times around the world without a day off handle today’s storm? Raven, forever old-school, cradled his landline receiver against his face. He prepared his thoughts, getting ready to give the radio listeners an update on his plans. And then, just as the interview was about to begin, his phone went dead. The electricity was out, and now he had no one to share the afternoon’s drama with except his trusty cat, Joe.
Normally Raven left the apartment each day around quarter to four so that he could warm-up for his five-thirty run by doing pull-ups and push-ups at the outdoor gym at Ninth Street; but today that simply didn’t seem possible. So he waited, and as the tempestuous minutes stretched on, he waited some more.
Finally, around five o’clock, Raven steeled his nerves and headed for the door. Usually he jogged over to the beach in his trademark black jeans and denim jacket and then changed into his running outfit at the lifeguard stand. But today, because the hurricane wouldn’t allow him to fumble with zippers on clothing or the latch on the lifeguard-tower lockbox he’d been given access to, he was leaving the house ready to roll.
Raven was already shirtless and clad in running shorts when he stepped into the streets to meet Irma. Exiting the front door of his apartment was like being zipped into an alternate reality. The winds were overpowering—almost deafening—and the streets of Miami Beach were empty. It was spooky. It seemed as if an apocalyptic wave had washed all of those beach bunnies and bodybuilders and tourists clean out of the city. And when he got to the beach entrance, his friends were nowhere to be seen. South Beach, normally so full of tanned bodies and raw energy, was basically vacant except for three blurry figures huddled by the dunes.
Who were those figures? Maybe they were stoned college kids playing amateur storm chasers for a day, or maybe they were a few of his beloved Raven Run coaches, those colorful South Beach figures who were always around and usually homeless.
Or maybe they were ghosts, or mirage-like figments of an overworked imagination? Raven just couldn’t tell right now. He couldn’t think all that clearly or see all that well. An aggressive rain was pelting his exposed upper body and finding its way behind his tinted glasses and into his eyes, rendering his vision cloudy and limited. The world in front of him was little more than a ghastly sheet of gray and white. He couldn’t even make out the ocean, which sat a mere fifteen yards from his face. The mighty waves of the Atlantic were no doubt rising high on their haunches and then crashing with ferocity onto the shoreline, but he just couldn’t discern much of anything that wasn’t right in front of his face—and that myopia made his situation seem all the more perilous.
With no fellow runners, or lifeguards, to be found on the beach, Raven wondered what he ought to do. In the case of an emergency, he’d have no support out here today, moral or otherwise. If a furious gust of wind blew him into a lifeguard stand and knocked him unconscious—if a great wave swept him into the Atlantic and on to the next life—no one would even be the wiser. (Although, at this point, if he disappeared between the hours of five thirty and eight in in the evening, anyone who knew him could probably guess what he’d been doing at the time.)
As Irma danced madly around him, Raven considered his options. Maybe if he just kept moving his feet, that magic locomotion that had carried him through so many challenging runs in the past—that inborn autopilot—would simply take over. Maybe he could just close his eyes and start moving toward the South Pointe Pier as usual. But it seemed impossible. The sting of the sand hitting his face was simply too much, and the forceful punches from those hurricane winds wouldn’t let him get a stride. Also, the rainfall felt biblical, like floodwaters that might swallow him up before he’d even reached the halfway mark of the day’s planned Back and Forth South route.
Raven considered his options, and for the first time in forty-two years, he turned around and jogged back home. Was this how it would all end?
One Day More (Dancing with Irma)
Sheik was a barefoot runner, a seasoned marathon runner, a Raven Hall of Fame runner with over 700 runs to his name. The Nigerian with the easy smile had been a sturdy member of Raven’s kaleidoscopic running troupe since 2009, and he’d never done a “partial,” which was anything under the prescribed eight miles. He’d seen the Raven Run grow from a small group of devotees into an international attraction thanks to word of mouth and a lot of recent press. But throughout all of the expansion and craziness, throughout the presence of journalists and ESPN cameras and even autograph seekers, one thing had remained constant: the indefatigable character and obsessive drive of his friend. He’d known all along that Raven would attempt another eight miles today, Irma or no Irma, and that’s why he’d promised to show up, too. A man couldn’t let a buddy wander into such conditions alone, and after all, it might make for a great story someday.
Despite grim forecasts and measures of better judgement, Sheik left his apartment at Ninth Street and Lennox Avenue and jogged to the Fifth Street beach entrance. The conditions outdoors were indeed turbulent: They were the frightful sorts of conditions that weatherpersons and the TV stations that write their checks gleefully anticipate and then solemnly narrate. However, he’d told Raven he’d be there—even if the weather looked like this—and nothing perturbed his friend more than a broken promise.
Battling through curtains of rain and wind, Sheik finally made it to the stretch of beach near the run’s starting point. However, he didn’t see any other Raven Runners: not Cholita, who’d said she’d run today, too, and not even Raven himself.
Perhaps his friend had finally called it quits? Perhaps common sense—or fear, or pain, or simple fatigue—had finally trumped passion and persuaded Raven to sit on the couch for a night. But that seemed unlikely. Impossible.
Besides, they’d discussed a backup plan.
Sheik took a deep breath and then jogged south, down an abandoned Ocean Drive and toward Raven’s apartment. Before too long, his efforts were rewarded with a familiar sight: That stringy black hair crowned by a proud black headband and moving atop a slightly hitched but relentless gait. Through a hyper haze of raindrops that were flying this way and that at the behest of God and Irma, Sheik could see that Raven was running laps around his apartment building, just like he’d said he might if the situation on the beach seemed unmanageable. This hurricane might be historic, but so was Raven’s running streak, and Sheik knew that his friend was going to do everything in his power to keep it active.
Upon seeing Sheik, Raven smiled broadly, and then the friends got on with the business of battling the elements together—Sheik wearing no shoes, as was his custom, and Raven wearing a pair of holey New Balances that were anything but waterproof. With heads slightly bowed the men talked to pass the time, and Raven, like a steadying metronome, counted their mileage out loud, rallying their spirits. Every three times around the apartment building was a tenth of a mile.
When a strong gust of wind blew a disposable facemask out of Raven’s hand, Sheik gave a brief chase but was unable to retrieve the protective gear. Oh well, Raven hadn’t been using it much anyway. It would have been difficult to announce mileage or hold a conversation through the muffle of that mask. The men shrugged off the loss and soldiered on.
About halfway to eight miles, Raven and Sheik reassessed the weather and determined that things were calming down a bit. Encouraged, they decided to give running on the sand another shot. They veered away from Raven’s apartment and jogged as far as the beach entrance at Fifth Street. Raven held up a tiny disposable camera that he’d brought along to memorialize the experience. He snapped a quick photo of Sheik and then handed the camera to his friend so that he could reciprocate. The men felt energized, almost giddy, but only for a moment. A violent wind quickly spun Raven around, and his feet sunk into the flooded sand as if it were a haunted swamp where men oughtn’t stick their extremities. His weatherworn shoes, along with his calves and thin black socks, disappeared into the spooky muck. He fought to release himself, and when he did, back to the apartment it was.
161 laps: 6 miles. 191 laps: 7 miles. As the men continued to make their way around the building, the virtual Fitbit wired into Raven’s numerically obsessed brain continued to mark their progress. Since they’d each jogged to the beach twice (once before the first set of apartment laps and again at the halfway point), Raven had tacked the appropriate mileage onto their totals. They were getting closer.
206 laps: 7.5 miles. 215 laps: 7.8 miles. Raven smiled—at least inwardly—as the end moved into sight. Irma’s bite was still at their heels, but now it truly seemed that nothing could prevent them from reaching their goal.
After traveling around the apartment building one last time—the 221st time—Raven and Sheik broke through a finish-line ribbon that only they could see. Slicked with rain and sweat and full of pride, they congratulated each other, commemorating the insane race they’d just completed. While the rest of Miami Beach had fled or gone into hiding, they’d stuck their necks into the breach and accomplished something singular, something that no one else would ever be able to brag about.
And Raven had accomplished what he always sought to accomplish: He’d kept his streak going for one more day. His Why was still very much alive, vibrant and pulsing magnificently beneath his weathered skin.
After bidding Sheik a quick goodbye in the alleyway beside his apartment, Raven allowed himself to relax, but only briefly. His thoughts quickly turned to the pull-ups and push-ups he hadn’t yet competed. Now that the day’s eight miles were securely in the books, it was time to finish the rest of his hallowed fitness routine. He jogged across Ocean Drive to a kiddie park at Third Street, but alas, the entrance was blocked by fallen tree branches and a locked gate.
Never one to give up easily, Raven returned home to bide his time, and then, around quarter to eleven, he rode his bicycle to his usual spot, the refurbished outdoor gym at Ninth Street. There he knocked out the final pieces of his daily regimen one by one. He did his forty-five-second hang, his three sets of twenty pull-ups, and finally, his one hundred push-ups. As he was rising from his final push-up, a voice boomed at him through a bullhorn. “Go home!” it said sternly.
The voice belonged to a Miami Beach police officer. Maybe the officer knew Raven and his story, or maybe he was a newbie and wasn’t yet familiar with the South Beach celebrity. Regardless, there was still a curfew in effect, and it was his job to enforce it.
Raven nodded and waved, and then he got back on his bicycle.
Finally, as midnight approached, Raven stepped back into his living room, soaked and disheveled but high as a kite on both the running endorphins and the knowledge of what he’d achieved. Several years ago a few of his younger runners had introduced him to Facebook, but now, without electricity, he couldn’t log on to share the details of his day with anyone. However, he celebrated privately. He ate a little soup and showered, washing his hair three times to remove the sand, and then he drank a solitary toast by flashlight: Gatorade, his teetotaling equivalent of fine champagne.
For the first time in many long hours, Raven felt satisfied. He’d completed his eight miles. And tomorrow, God willing, he’d do it again.
Michael Priebe is a writer and personal development coach who has studied psychology, literature, and print journalism. He holds a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he graduated with honors. and over the years he has used both fiction and nonfiction formats to write about health, sports, professional life, politics, relationships, and spiritual issues. He puts out a variety of spiritually inspiring content at The Lovely Grind, and he blogs about his life at www.michaelpriebewriter.com. He invites you to reach out to him on Facebook and Twitter.
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