Sometimes, your own children can teach you a valuable life lesson. That’s what happened yesterday when my middle son, Iden, submitted his recipe in the annual Yavapai Hills Chili Cookoff in Prescott, Ariz.

It’s hard enough for a 12-year-old boy to compete against cooks with seven decades of experience. But this is Arizona, where chili is something close to a religion. A few of the recipes were more than a century old, tried-and-true prizewinners — and they were really good.

Iden had his own personal hurdles to overcome, too. Our kitchen is being remodeled, so he had to prepare the dish on a camping stove. Also, he didn’t really have his own recipe.

But Iden desperately wanted to compete. When he found out about the cookoff, he immediately added his name to the sign-up sheet at the neighborhood clubhouse. Then he set to work developing his own recipe, adjusting the ingredients over many weeks until it was delicious. (His secret ingredient was lemon juice.)

Last night, all of his hard work paid off. Iden was the shocking third-place winner in the cookoff in a very crowded and competitive field. He says it’s the highlight of his life so far.

I’m so proud of him, but I’ve also learned something about the importance of staying on mission even when the goal doesn’t seem reachable. Success is hard. Sometimes you have to stick with it even when winning seems impossible. Iden is often criticized for his stubbornness, but that can be a good quality. In consumer advocacy, it’s referred to as “persistence.” And it can definitely pay off.

When I think of the many times consumers just give up when they hear a “no” from a company, I lose count. It happens every day. I wish I could lend them Iden for a few hours.

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