Last night I was thinking about the daunting task I have ahead of me, and I was getting a bit nervous. After all, I’ve never done anything like this before. Come to think of it, I don’t know if anyone even has done anything like it before. What if I make a fool out of myself? What if it’s going okay, but all the personal stuff I have to deal with prevents me from moving forward? What if I can’t handle the workload? What if I simply fail?
With all these questions running through my mind, I decided to give myself a little pep talk, so I began to look for sources of inspiration. There’s no question about it — life is hard, and we all have those things that make us want to lie down and give up. But when all is said and done, the people who give up aren’t the ones who make a difference in this world. As Lance Armstrong says, “Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.”
Still, there’s always a measure of uncertainty when you’re facing a difficult task. I think that’s to be expected, but something I have to be better about is not letting that uncertainty turn into unwarranted fear. Everything that follows is something I told myself last night, and now I’m passing it on to you as well.
Here are five things that you don’t have to be afraid of:
1. Doing It Your Way
The easiest way to get noticed is to do something that nobody else is doing. People generally like to keep the status quo, so breaking with tradition will get you isolated from the group — set apart so all the world can see you succeed . . . or fail. It can get lonely out there all by yourself, and you run the risk of embarrassing yourself in front of everyone you know. But you also have the chance to inspire the world. Don’t be afraid to be yourself and see what happens.
2. Your Circumstances
I’m not gonna lie, guys. I worry. A lot. With a personal history of crippling anxiety attacks, and kids who need constant medical attention, everyday life can get very, very scary for me. I don’t understand why all of this has to be the way it is, and I can get very discouraged with my situation. But then I see people like Dick and Rick Hoyt, and I realize that I have very little to complain about.
I should be able to do so much more than sit around and feel sorry for myself, and I do a disservice to my family if I don’t make every one of my actions the best it can possibly be, regardless of my circumstance. Of course, it’s one thing to say this, and yet another thing to live through it. I still struggle mightily with dealing with my situation, but for me, spending time in prayer and thinking about positive examples like this help me get through it.
3. Hard Work
I like sports, and my inspiration has always come from Michael Jordan . . . but not for the reason you may think. Yes, he was one of the greatest talents the game has ever seen, and he physically dominated many of his opponents, but I look up to him for his superhuman work ethic. He put in the most time in practice. He competed in practice as if it were a game. He played each game as if it were his last. And what’s more, he held all of his teammates to the same standard, which is even harder than doing it yourself.
When you saw him do something incredible during a playoff game, you were just seeing Showtime Jordan. You probably don’t think about it much, but Practice Jordan had practiced that move a thousand times. He’d rehearsed it inside out and upside down. He had put in the work to get where he was. I’ve been learning over the last couple of years that there is no substitute for hard work. No matter how talented you may be, sweat equity is the thing that’s going to get you to the top. I really like this video because it’s one of the few highlight compilations that show you a little bit of the tough behind-the-scenes work before you get to the fun stuff.
This is one area that I think I do okay. I’m no stranger to failure — I’ve been doing it all my life, in one way or another. I went to college on academic scholarship, with all the potential in the world, and I was doing great until I got bored. Once my mind wasn’t interested in school, I couldn’t bring myself to show up for class . . . or even exams. I was unceremoniously kicked out of the Honors Program.
I went from a perpetual straight-A student to a 0.9 GPA. I failed all my classes, and then I dropped out of school, never to return. But it didn’t bother me. I knew that all the potential everyone always talked about didn’t have to be limited to studies. I could make an impact in a different way. I didn’t know what that way was, but it was up to me to figure it out. And that’s what I’m continuing to do with this project — figuring out how I’m going to use my life to make a difference.
I believe that failure is okay as long as you learn from it. The way I see it, failure is the the proving ground for success. As long as you learn from it, you’ll come back stronger, smarter, and more successful than before. Don’t fear it — embrace it.
I wasn’t going to support this point with another Jordan video, but I just came across one that fits perfectly, so I’ll use it.
5. Having Fun
We all go through tough times in this life, and it can be hard to see the value in something as simple as having fun. But I firmly believe that even during your deepest struggles (and sometimes especially so), the temporary release you get from doing something you enjoy can make a huge difference in your overall well-being. When I went through a two-year period of severe illness, the few times I can remember laughing hard were when a buddy and I were making fun of how pathetic I was. Granted, that’s my sense of humor, and that type of thing won’t work for everyone (my wife hated it), but my point is that if you can find something, anything, that makes you happy during a painful time, take advantage of it.
Of course it needn’t be as dire as all that. I think it’s a great idea to try to have fun wherever you can in all aspects of your everyday life. Take the following video example from the business world. It’s a marketing campaign for a big company. It’s all about gaining exposure and building brand awareness. But the marketing team that came up with this campaign weren’t afraid to have some fun in their job, and just take a look at the result. Don’t be afraid of injecting a little levity into your life — stuffiness is overrated.
So those are the thoughts that came to me at 4:00 A.M. when I was trying to bolster my self-confidence with this project. They are not absolutes, and they’re probably not the same for everybody. But I do think they’re valuable. What do you guys think? What should be added to this list? Let me know . . .