Here is something I want you to consider…each of us shares with the world what we decide we want them to see. In other words, the “representative” version of you is what most of your casual acquaintances know you to be, and your friends know you on a deeper level. Just like the picture of the iceberg, only a small portion of you gets represented on a daily basis to the world. If the world was aware of your personal story of struggle and perseverance, they would be quite impressed.
Each one of us has a personal life resume that hardly anyone else is aware of the full extent. I have dealt with struggles that my family is completely unaware of, but they are far more aware of most of the things I have dealt with over the course of my life. In some cases, close friends of mine are far more clued into certain parts of my life than others. That is fairly typical of how most people operate; not everyone is an open book like I literally am to a large degree, but most people share enough of the life they lead to give people a glimpse at who they are underneath the layers. And as is the case for most of us, if you took the time to list out everything you have accomplished, dealt with, battled, overcome, or continue to fight with, they would be both surprised and impressed.
My story doesn’t begin in a third world country with crushing poverty, nor does it begin in a burned-out inner city neighborhood that needed “escaped from” through sports or education. My version of a life story began on a small farm outside a small town near York, PA. It was a great place to be a kid, and then my family moved to Phoenix when I was twelve. I had to make all the adjustments of being a new kid at a new school in the big city. My life, just like everyone else’s is, has been a series of adjustments, struggles, a few wins and a bunch of belly flops along the way. In most ways I am no different than anyone else, I just have my own version of the story. But I look back on those struggles and know a few things to be true:
1. I am a better person for the things I have faced.
2. I am the man I am today BECAUSE of those struggles. I wouldn’t trade them for
the world at this point.
3. I have learned more from my failures and misses than I have from my wins.
You need to understand the gifts that are being presented to you when it comes to the struggles we all face. Allow me to elaborate…
My life would never have been the same if I had stayed on the farm in PA. I am not sure if I would have gone to college; I may have gotten into the family’s machine shop business right after high school. I may still live within a 25 mile radius of the elementary school I went to, like 50%(!) of the people I went to school with. Yes, you read that correctly, in keeping with the small town tradition, many of the people that I went to elementary school with still live in the same dinky little town we grew up in. They rarely traveled, haven’t seen much of the world, experienced a lot of new things, or grown outside their initial comfort zone. In some ways, it is a simple life that can lead to happiness for some, while for others it has been a stifling way to live. For me, I did not want to move to AZ when I was a kid, but I didn’t really have a choice in that matter. We as a family decided that we were moving to Phoenix and that was that. But it opened up a world of opportunities for me that I never would have had if I stayed on the farm.
I thought I was headed to college on a wrestling scholarship later on in my young life, only to have had a neck injury wrestling as a freshman to end that opportunity. A career-ending neck injury sounds bad, but the injury did not end up putting me in a wheelchair or anything like that. It ended my time as a wrestler, and that at the time was absolutely devastating. But it also opened me up to play racquetball for the first time ever, and thus began the journey to being a Pro Racquetball Player for six years. I ended up spending three years in the Top 20 in the world, something I couldn’t possibly have predicted as a farm boy or even as a freshman in high school. This is just one example of my life resume that I know is there in my personal history, and that I draw strength and experience from. Each one of us has their own story with their own pivotal moments that have altered the course of their respective path.
I think this would be a great exercise for each person to do, just to prove how much you have accomplished, survived, and tried. Get out your laptop and open up a Word doc and start typing. List everything and anything you can think of on that page that is part of your history. The fight you got into in third grade, the first time you asked someone out, the first time you landed a job you really wanted, proposing to your spouse, winning a state Championship or not making the team, all of it counts. All of it contributed to the person you are today. Each of us is the sum total of our own personal history. Most of us have too much of a “What have you done lately” look at our lives, and we beat ourselves up for things we think we should have done by now. Some are stuck in the past, the “Glory Days” syndrome of days long gone, that reflect back to a time when you were pursuing something you really loved or were good at. While occasion reflection is a good thing for many reasons, being stuck in the past is not a healthy way to live. If those times were better days, what are you doing to improve the present?
I am willing to bet that most people would be quite surprised and impressed with the life that others have lead, once they know the whole story. I know someone that was a teen mom that has a tough life story, but she kept persevering to make life better for herself and her son. She didn’t give up or give in, she fought her own personal battle against all the things stacked against her and now she is in a much better place. To me, that is an amazing story that I am so impressed by. I don’t see how anyone so young manages to pull off the miracle of raising yourself while you raise a child at the same time. I think it is easy for me to say that I would not have been capable of this myself. She is the perfect example of the iceberg analogy; until I got to know her and learn of her story, I had no idea just how strong a person she was. I hope she understands just how far she has come and how much respect I have for her because of it.
In case you find yourself doubting what you have to offer, what you have done that measures up, try the exercise of writing out as many of the things you can remember that you have done in your life. DO NOT leave out the bad stuff, as these are learning experience and pivot points that mean as much if not more than the wins you may have had. The wins are the fun part, the flashy stuff that sounds great when you verbalize them. But the recovery from losses, or pivots when life throws a curveball at you that can truly define just what you are made of. THIS is the stuff I want you to be more cognitive of, as it can build your self esteem far better than most other things. If you think your list is a little lacking, keep two things in mind: A. Someone else’s list is even shorter and B. There is plenty of time to add to the list.
Don’t sell yourself short, your life may have not had the same level of spotlight and success that Tom Brady’s has, but that doesn’t diminish the value of it. It is YOUR big time, your life, and that is reason enough for you to give it the respect it is due. Never forget:
None of us are running the same race, despite the fact that we are all running at the same time. You don’t know your finish line, and you don’t even know how long you have to keep running…
Don’t both trying to copy someone else’s life or obtain the things that someone else has. Do you, and learn to be happy in the present while you push for a better future. Maximize your life, and let the chips falls where they may; you never know where life is going to lead you, so be open, and do the best you can in each situation. In the end, it is all any of us can do…