Life rewards persistence. Too many people give up too soon and never get to fully realize their potential or dreams. Success isn’t just about luck or good fortune. It is more about focus, hard work, determination and resolve. Everyone’s life journey has bumps along the way. Keep pressing forward even when it’s hard. Obstacles strewn along our path are just opportunities to further build our character. They also test how much we truly want something. If success always came easily then it really wouldn’t mean anything.
There is a great song by the band Psychedelic Furs called “Love My Way.” One of the lines goes, “you can never win or lose if you don’t run the race…” Grammatical problems aside, it is a great thought. One of the things I admire most about Olympic athletes is that they are committed to being the best in the world at something and then go about doing the hard work to make it happen. They literally run the race or compete in the event that will define their athletic existence. Most of us prefer to stay on the sidelines and watch others excel why we rationalize our own inability to do the same thing in our own lives. So many people dream big but act small.
I’ve met many talented people through the years who struggle with self-confidence and low self-esteem. I don’t know if it is how they were raised by their parents or other environmental factors in their lives growing up, but it is often surprising to see and also a bit sad. Unfortunately, leadership roles aren’t always assumed by the most capable or well intentioned people. I’ve seen the flip side of this issue where people with too much self-confidence put themselves in positions they have no business being in. The leadership void will get filled one way or another.
When I used to work for Gallup many years ago they had a great saying, “you can’t put in what God left out.” Many of us spend far too much effort trying to be what we are not instead of focusing on what makes us truly special. We all have natural weaknesses and strengths. Some people are great at details while others seem to effortlessly grasp the big picture. Some people are great thinking on their feet where others thrive using a more methodical approach. There are a few of us with the physical ability to be a professional athlete while others are better at reporting and analyzing the events taking place on the field. The list goes on and on. Of course all of this happens on a continuum, but I believe each and every one of us has gifts and talents that separate us from the pack (if only we are paying attention).
You have to believe in what it is you are doing before you can fully believe in yourself. Life is a constant search for meaning and understanding. The tragedy of many people’s lives is that they are unwilling to put themselves out there because they won’t put forth the required effort, are afraid of public scrutiny and lack the courage of their convictions. Being the hero of your own life isn’t easy.
Talk is cheap. As a sports fan it’s amazing to watch how many individuals talk a big game and then don’t deliver. In life, business or sports it’s better to let your actions do your talking. I’m always surprised by players or coaches who draw unnecessary attention to themselves or their teams and literally motivate the opposition through what they say. Winning games at a professional level is hard enough without putting a bull’s-eye on your back. When you put yourself on a pedestal all you do is encourage other people to want to knock you off it.
Henry Ford has a famous quote, ‘if you think you can do a thing or you think you can’t do a thing, your right.” I believe this sums up most of life quite nicely. Self-confidence and self-belief do matter. So much about success and happiness is related to your mental attitude and emotional resilience. Some of us may have a harder time than others or start out with more baggage, but the history of civilization proves that ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things and overcome great obstacles in the process. While it may seem easier at times to give up or give in, you must fight these feelings, forge ahead and persevere. Never embrace failure and unhappiness as your default reality.
More often than not, the biggest barrier to our success is ourself. I’ve noticed that people can talk themselves out of just about anything. Sometimes this is good. Sometimes it is not. When it comes to limiting your perspective on what’s possible for you in terms of your work life I find this to usually be a bad thing. Happiness and self-fulfillment in your career shouldn’t be viewed as optional. The history of the business landscape is full of ordinary people who accomplished extraordinary things.