I had some experience in my job working on parts of NASA proposals for projects like space shuttle operations and integration of the International Space Station.
But the key word there is “parts”.
I never fully grasped the extent of developing a complete proposal, until I set my sights on the Holman Prize.
The Holman Prize is a $25,000 award given to three blind individuals from around the world to carry out a dream project. It was created specifically for blind individuals with a penchant for exploration of all types, to push their limits.
Trekking the Inca Trail is certainly a limit. Sighted people often think if they take a wrong step on the trail, they’re certain to fall to their death. And I’ll be doing it with the sound of my guides’ voices and performing orientation and mobility skills using my trekking poles.
Would it be possible for me to be one of those three prizewinners? My goal wass to use the award to fund the documentary film of my hike to Machu Picchu.
In February 2018, I decided to go for it.
First came the creation of the 90-second video describing my project. I uploaded my Trek to Machu Picchu pitch to Youtube and submitted the online application on February 28.
The next stage would be to make it to the semi-finalist round. There are two ways to become a semi-finalist. One is the People’s Choice, which would be the YouTube video pitch receiving the most “Likes.”
I knew my chances for this were pretty slim since some of the video pitches were uploaded as soon as the Prize was announced six weeks earlier. So, I was dependent—like most of the other nearly 100 applicants—on the selection committee’s picks.
I had a hard time sleeping over those couple of weeks, as the committee reviewed all the entries.
I kept getting asked, “Have you heard anything yet?”
“What’s happening with that prize?”
On March 14, an email showed up from the Holman Prize committee.
I was a semifinalist.
But I wasn’t allowed to post about my selection until the committee did their own public announcement.
“Great, I have to keep it a secret for another week,” I thought as my chest was about to burst with excitement and my heart pounded with pride.
But that also meant I had less than a month to develop a detailed proposal—including schedule, budget, preparation plans, travel, lodging, food, tour packages, permits, local guides, porters, gratuities, special equipment and supplies, film production, personal questions regarding my thoughts on blindness and on and on.
It was one of the most mentally-intensive tasks to prepare that proposal. I was up past midnight every night for 26 days.
There were some days when I just did not feel like getting out of bed, ready to just scrap the proposal.
With God’s help and prayers and encouragement of friends and family, I persevered. I did the research, created spreadsheets, and consulted with experts to gather and organize all the data for my proposal.
A 14-page document later, I turned in my proposal one day early. Boy, was I relieved. But the waiting and sleepless nights began as I hoped to be a finalist.
Exactly one month after I submitted my proposal, a new email from the Holman Prize committee came.
It started, “We are writing in appreciation of the time, ambition and energy you invested in completing your 2018 Holman Prize proposal … We regret to inform you …”
My heart sank. I felt lifeless.
As I began to slowly share with friends and family my disappointment, I was reminded by many of what I had accomplished so far.
I learned that I do possess the ability to overcome barriers in reaching my goal, even if I haven’t stepped foot on that trail yet.
Thanks for joining me on my journey!
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