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A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to spend a whole week with my 11-year-old niece, Brooke.

The day after she flew in from Colorado, we headed over to my gym here in Baltimore. It’s a Crossfit gym, so there’s lots of open area and rings that hang from the ceiling for things like “muscle up’s.”

With a gymnastics background, Brooke had a whole new appreciation for these rings. My jaw dropped as she put one foot in each ring, and then dropped into a split. Actually, I cringed, though she wasn’t fazed in the least.

As a result of pain in my lower back, my physical therapist had instructed me to stretch out the muscles on the inside of my legs.

As I was stretching, Brooke came over and asked, “Auntie, are you trying to get the splits?”

“That would be awesome, but no—just trying to stretch out these muscles.”

“Would you like some help with your flexibility there?”

Of course I wanted to learn from her, so I jumped up and asked what she had in mind.

She grabbed two boxes and put them across from each other. “Okay, Auntie,” she demonstrated, “put one foot on the box. Do you feel that stretch?”


“Okay, now drop,” she said as she dropped down into a full split.

“Seriously? That’s not in my cards for today, Brooke.”

“Come on. Drop down a little,” she insisted, and so I did.

“A little more. Come on, Auntie.”

Before I knew it, I was stuck! That’s what happens when you try to impress an 11-year-old gymnast with your flexibility.

Tilting backward, I managed to fall out of that mess, with the tiniest, “OUCH!”

Flustered, I said, “Brooke, you make that look so easy. It’s not that easy.”

“Auntie,” she commanded my attention, “I have been working at this every day since I was four! It’s going to take you some time and practice to get there!”

There is nothing like getting a lesson on patience and persistence from your 11-year-old niece, but man is she right.

If you’re anything like me, and don’t particularly love being new at something, consider Brooke’s sage advice and be patient with yourself as you persistently work to improve.

I used her philosophy in swimming this week, as I just learned a more efficient—but radically different—kick. It’s hard and frustrating, but I keep hearing Brooke’s voice and remembering her lesson.

What are you learning right now?

Here’s to Your Greatness,

Misti Burmeister