It’s likely that you’ve never heard of DeeDee Jonrowe. After all, she was born in Germany, grew up in Virginia and now lives in Willow, Alaska. She’s not someone you’d run into at the grocery store. But her story is worth knowing.
Mrs. Jonrowe is a dog-sled racer, often referred to as a “dog musher.” She willingly harnesses dogs to a sled in sub-zero temperatures to race competitively against others who do the same. With all due respect, that sounds like insanity to me.
You may be aware of a race called the Iditarod. It is a nearly 1,100-mile dog-sled race from Anchorage to Nome. Held annually, it typically can take anywhere from eight to fifteen days for the winner to complete, depending on the weather and snow conditions. It’s the musher, a sled, and as many as sixteen dogs for, perhaps, two weeks or more in the arctic cold. (If you ever want to actually try it out, I’ll be happy to write your story. As for me, I’d rather stay in my house and read about it.)
DeeDee Jonrowe is now nearly 65 years old. She has competed in the Iditarod twenty-three times. Although she has never won, she has come in second three times. And she holds the record for the fastest time ever for a woman.
There are some other facts that make DeeDee’s story even more compelling. She once competed in the Iditarod just three weeks after receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer. She was also in an automobile accident several years ago, outside Fairbanks, Alaska. Her grandmother died in the accident and both DeeDee and her husband were hospitalized as a result of the accident. But she trained while she recovered from her injuries, and placed fourth in the Iditarod that year.
Regarding her various injuries over the years, DeeDee said this: “I’ve had back surgery, frozen my shoulder, broken my hand…I think I’ve had every single cold related injury. I haven’t had any amputations, but I have had severe frostbite on my fingers, cheeks and nose. I even frostbit my corneas some years ago.” (Remember what I said earlier about insanity?)
In spite of her various setbacks, DeeDee keeps going. Once while talking about dog sled racing, she made a great statement: “You win when you simply don’t allow yourself to stop trying. If you allow yourself to give in, to stop fighting, the race just seems longer, the miles get long, the days pass slowly, and every hill is so much higher.”
Truth be told, I would never want to go on a race with her, but I’d sure like to meet DeeDee Jonrowe. What an inspiration to all of us.
It’s easy to quit. It doesn’t take any special talent or mindset to do that. Giving up is simple.
But continuing when things aren’t going well? That’s the challenge. And my experience has been that that is what separates the successful from the non-successful. Endurance—keeping going when it seems crazy to keep going—is what makes the great stories that we all love to hear. The underdog who came back when it didn’t seem possible. The everyday guy who saved the town. Or the business owner who kept going and somehow found a way.
Maybe in your life or your business, you are facing some serious hurdles right now. Perhaps you are stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place. It’s possible that the future looks bleak. But I urge you today, don’t quit.
If you’re up against what seems like an 1,100-mile dog-sled race in the bitter cold, remember DeeDee Jonrowe. Don’t quit.
Tom Kraeuter for Bill Bayer