In this article, I discuss how the key to success is often continuing to try ideas until you find the ones that work.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes.

In my work as a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist, I often get inspired by ideas from the media to help clients. One memorable example came from the long-running television show based on the Korean war called M*A*S*H which is set in a mobile army surgical hospital. Although the program originally aired many years ago, it still appears in reruns.

One M*A*S*H episode was so moving in its focus on resilience and perseverance that it inspires me to keep going when I feel like giving up. It also helps me to spur my clients to keep going in the face of adversity. In the following sections, I will discuss the key moments of the episode which I find so inspiring.

Facing adversity in war and on the gridiron

In the M*A*S*H episode End Run, American Billy Tyler is a soldier and former star running back with the University of Iowa. He is wounded in action and is told by surgeons that they had to amputate one of his legs in order to save his life. This is devastating for Billy as he was looking forward to a professional football career. With his dreams shattered, he tells hospital staff that he wants to kill himself.

Overcoming adversity by going to the ‘short pass’

Things begin to turn around for Billy thanks to Corporal Radar O’Reilly, company clerk of M*A*S*H. Radar is a big fan of Billy’s being from Iowa himself. He brings Billy a Life magazine article of last year’s big game between Iowa and Minnesota.

Billy recalls the adversity his team had to overcome in that game. They were behind late in the game and were pinned deep in their own end of the field and nothing they tried was working. They tried running up the middle and were stopped. They tried passing for bombs and they were stopped. Finally, they tried some short passes and were able to make some yardage and slowly but surely move the ball down the field. They ultimately handed the ball to Billy who ran for the winning touchdown.

Radar congratulates Billy for his pivotal role in the victory, but Billy observes that there was much more to it than his contribution. “It was those short passes that did it’, Billy notes. Then comes the moment  when he realizes that the game has provided him with a lesson he can use in his life. “There’s always a way to beat ‘em,” he contemplates. “You just have to keep trying until you find it.” In the final part of the episode, when leaving the hospital Billy tells the doctors who operated on him that he is going to use the “short pass”. Radar tells them that it means he is going to keep trying.

How to go to the short pass when you are facing adversity

You can face a lot of adversity in pursuit of goals in various areas including school, job/career, relationships, finances and sports, to name just a few.  It can so frustrating at times that, like Billy Tyler, you may feel like giving up.

It helps to remind yourself at these times that, just because your efforts have not produced success to this point, it does not mean you cannot succeed. As Billy observed when he remembered how going to the short pass helped his team to win, “There’s always a way to beat ‘em. You just have to keep trying until you find it.”

Although this inspirational quote was uttered by a character in a television show, messages similar to it have inspired many people to succeed in their real lives. This includes no less than Thomas Edison, believed by many to be the greatest inventor of all time. Edison observed, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

So if you’ve tried and failed and feel like giving up as a result, follow the advice of Billy Tyler and Thomas Edison. If you need some support and guidance in doing so, you may find it helpful to meet with a psychologist who can help you to “go to the short pass.”

May you persevere on the way to achieving your goals,

Dr. Pat