This is a tricky one, but I will attempt to navigate through this as best I can.
When I was younger, I was groomed to be a wrestler, hopefully an elite wrestler. The goal was to get a college scholarship, as my family did not really have the money to send me to college, and I was hoping to avoid the usual mountain of student loan debt. This seemed like the best path; my father was a great wrestler in high school and beyond, so I had the blueprint in hand. However, a neck injury my freshman year of high school ended that run before it even started. You can read that full story here in blog #45.
So, as the story goes, I floundered around for a little while, trying to figure out what to do next now that my life’s path had been drastically altered. About six months later my Uncle took me to play racquetball with him, and I was hooked. I threw myself into playing that sport every day, and I worked at it with the same discipline and fervor that I did with wrestling. I improved quickly, and very early on had the opportunity to watch the best in the world play in a Pro tournament in my home town. I now had players to model myself after, and shorten the learning curve.
Fast forward eight years later and I am in Las Vegas playing in my first Pro Racquetball tournament. I had to go through the qualifying matches to get into the main draw; three people stood in my way to making it into the round of 64 in the Pro division. I smashed the first guy, but was very close to losing the second match. I was down two games to one in a best three-out-of-five match, and down 10-6, playing to 11 points, in game four. The guy I was playing tightened up as he served for the match, made a few errors, and opened the door for a comeback. I stole game four and cruised in the fifth game to win. Next up was Adam Karp, a young hotshot from CA. He smushed me in three straight games, it wasn’t even close. I was quite disheartened, until I watched him play the next day and take out one of the top 16 Pros and lose a really close match to the number one player in the world. I felt like I could play at this level with a little more work.
Upon my return to Phoenix, I announced to my family that I was turning Pro and this is what I wanted to do with my life for a little while. I was going to leave school and pursue this athletic career to see where it would lead. You could have heard a pin drop at the family dinner table at my Grandmother’s house that day. They all looked at each other in shock, struggling for words. I thought they would be proud and excited for me, but that was not their initial reaction.
For the next thirty minutes I was pelted with every possible scenario that could go wrong, how I was ruining my life by leaving school, etc. etc. I was stunned. I didn’t see this coming, although maybe I should have. When I announced that I wanted to go to school in Flagstaff, AZ which is about two hours north of Phoenix, I got what, in retrospect, was a precursor to the racquetball career announcement. Doubts about me being able to take care of myself for the first time on my own, concerns about basic human skills like feeding myself and doing laundry were tossed about. Although I didn’t cook at the time, and wasn’t ambitious enough to do my own laundry instead of making my mother do it, it appears the thought was I couldn’t do those things. I wasn’t the least bit concerned, maybe naively so, but I was ready to leave the proverbial nest and stretch my wings by going away to school. I had the self confidence to know that I could figure it out on the way; that if others before me had done it, that I could too.
It took a little while, but eventually I was able to translate what they said into what they meant. The words chosen on that days could have been better, but my family is made up of human beings just like yours, and humans don’t always think before they speak. What they MEANT was they were concerned for me, that they hoped I would do well, but if I didn’t that this would not be the end of me. They feared for my safety, traveling around the country by myself, and not knowing what else was going to be encountered along the way. None of them had done this, so there were a lot of unknowns which made them worry.
I get it. They love me, and want what’s best for me.
Sometimes that doesn’t get expressed in the best manner.
But here is the takeaway from this story…I was going to do it either way. With our without their support, their blessings, and maybe even their help, I was going to play on the Pro Racquetball Tour. Looking back, I know that I would never have become the person I am today if I had played it safe and not pursued this goal. I would have spent my whole life wondering…”What if” and in my opinion that is a terrible way to live.
If you are considering a move in your life that is being met by resistance, there are a couple of things that you need to review before digging your heels in and standing your ground.
How much risk is involved? Hard to say in some cases, but a realistic look at the true inherent dangers that are a part of what you want to do is necessary. If you are a single woman who wants to backpack through Europe for a year by herself, I can see the concern, and agree that there could be real danger in that choice. Traveling domestically to play racquetball doesn’t come anywhere close to joining the Army to get deployed overseas. Get a real read on the situation and then present your case. Is there real danger, or just a lot of unknown details that can be figured out along the way?
What is plan B? In some cases, like entrepreneurship for example, people will tell you to be “ALL IN” and have no plan B. Having an escape plan will increase the likelihood of you exercising that option. Maybe that is true, but for me, I can’t sleep at night thinking I am on a sinking ship with no hope for escape. You will have to decide the right amount of safety net you’ll need to pursue a goal. Something that kept me in racquetball longer than I should have been was the fact that I DIDN’T have a plan B and just had no idea who I was if I wasn’t a Pro Racquetball player. Don’t follow suit and fall into that trap, especially now that I brought it to your attention.
Who is at risk? If you have a spouse who is not on board with your idea, you may need to rethink your plans, as this pursuit could have you end up all alone. Do you want to risk your marriage in pursuit of this goal? Is there a way to approach it differently, with less risk in general? Would that get your spouse on board? It was easy for me to make life-altering decisions when I was 24 with no wife, no kids, no mortgage etc. to take care of. I was unfettered, by design, and took advantage of that. I have likely done my last ever true entrepreneurial venture, having gotten married and turning 50 recently. I personally don’t have the stomach for it, and my wife is not a fan of risk. Those days are behind me.
What if you don’t? As I stated, I could not fathom living my life wondering “What if?” in the event that I took my family’s advice and didn’t chase my dream. Could I have done it differently? Yes, In retrospect not only could I have taken a different path, but I actually did things the hard way. If someone in the family had given me the advice to become a fireman because this would not only pay my bills but still allow me to play on the Pro Tour, I think I would have followed it. That would have been an easier path than I chose. Hindsight is, in fact, 20/20.
Life is never easy, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be hard either. I do my best to use all the brains I have, and all the brains I can borrow to make decisions, see things from different perspectives, and try to make decisions after getting input from a bunch of different angles. I know for a fact this makes things in my life easier, and recommend you do the same. That includes family and friends who may or may not support your ideas. YOU NEED TO HEAR THAT, and consider what they have to say seriously, even if in the end you decide to not follow their recommendations. In most cases, they will support you and love you, and they are just trying to help you avoid pain and suffering. But sometimes the best thing for you is a good hard belly flop to learn a lesson or two. While they don’t want you to feel the pain of that, the lesson(s) learned there cannot be replaced.
I wish you luck in your endeavors.