Dearest EXPLORE reader,
I’ve wanted to be and do a few things in my lifetime. During some chapters of my life, I picture myself wearing the Chicago Bulls jersey and playing alongside Michael Jordan, and in others, I can simply picture myself in a custom suit as I assume the role of “business badass”. One is a particular character – one is a particular role. Slightly different, but similar. But I’ve had many goals and dreams, and in no particular order, I wanted to:
1. Become a world champion motorcycle racer
2. Play in the NFL
3. Join a band and become a world sensation
4. Play against Michael Jordan
5. Write more successfully than Stephen King
6. Become a famous singer/songwriter
7. Change the business landscape of our community
8. Become insanely wealthy
9. Have ridiculous amounts of power via my political goals
10. Travel the world endlessly
11. Give away my tremendous wealth via philanthropy
To date, I have done none of these things.
I sprinted out the front door of my parent’s home over on Sharon Drive at the ripe age of 18, looked left, looked right, and simply took off in directions unknown ready to accomplish my goals one after another and to return with bags of cash to show everyone that doubted me that I COULD do it, and I DID. I had very little direction, no real plan, and like most kids, just had some general idea of how life was supposed to play out. But no matter what, we all reach our goals right? RIGHT?
Well, not really. At least generally speaking.
Tiger Woods was simply created to play golf, right? The Williams sisters had tennis as their future no matter what. Tom Brady could have done nothing but become an NFL star. We all believe these things because what else would explain their ability to excel so much higher than their competition? God simply gifted them with a magical chromosome that allows them to hit the ball farther, harder, and with more precision than other mortals. But is that true?
No, it’s not.
I was reading a study the other day that was studying this – does genetics play a larger role than good old fashioned practice? The quick answer: no. Tiger’s dad didn’t play golf. The Williams’ sisters’ father didn’t know how to play tennis when he began coaching them. Tom Brady was just a skinny public high school walk-on. Hell, Michael Jordan was cut from his freshman basketball team. They weren’t born into some sort of royal lineage of genetics that allowed them to sink 40 foot putters by their 1st birthday, though we sure like to think that’s true.
Want to know what they did? In my humble opinion, they didn’t have a laundry list of dreams and aspirations as I did and perhaps as you did as well…they had but one: to become the best at their craft that has ever lived.
The study I referenced earlier asked the question: is it genetics or practice? and found that overwhelmingly, it’s simply practice. Good old fashioned grit that creates legends in athletics. All of those hours hitting buckets of balls while your friends are out chasing girls, or playing another match of tennis when you’d rather be hanging at the mall, or throwing balls through the old swinging tire until it’s too dark to do so.
Basically, I wonder if these example people ever actually deviated from their original goal: to be the best. Did they dream of rock stardom or business success or any other thing…or did they simply respond when asked “What are you going to do when you grow up?” and answered with “Duh. Be the best ever”.
Science would tell us that their sheer determination dictated the outcome of their dreams, and not their “God ordained perfect talent” like we might want to believe. I’m sure the truth is somewhere in the middle. My frame and physique would never allow me to play like Michael Jordan, but then again, his freakishly huge fingers would probably make him a horrible surgeon no matter how bad he might have wanted to be one. Could he have become a surgeon? Sure. Would he have re-written surgery as we know it? Perhaps not. That would be left for some smallish person with amazingly calm hands, fantastic vision, and calm nerves. An entirely different skillset. Genetics plays a role, but it’s not THE role.
I’m sure that many of you out there have a laundry list of dreams and aspirations from when you were younger, similar to mine. We might start off to be the world’s greatest athlete, only to be distracted by art or music, then to be distracted by our career dreams when we realize that pastel painting might not pay the bills. But would it? If we threw every minute of our lives at the passion for pastel art, could we become one of the world’s greatest pastel painters?
The examples are endless. We choose to learn a skill or sport and we throw our energies at it. Some kid in the next town shows up to the game and waxes us, so we tell ourselves “Well, he’s just built to perform better. There will always be someone better. I won’t be any good in the long run. I can’t ever be good cause I’m short/slow/tall/fat.” So we move on.
I used to write “novels” when I was in high school. I used to voraciously read Stephen King and other science fiction books as much as I could. Something about the written word just resonated with me. The simple descriptions created such vivid images for me and I absolutely devoured every page.
None of my stories were any good, I suppose, but I enjoyed doing it. Then life happened and I didn’t write again for a long time. Marriage and kids happened, and then I fell into this role as publisher and have been writing ever since. I still think most of what I write is trash, but every once in a while one of you stop me on the street and tell me that you enjoyed an article of mine, or it made you laugh, or it made you cry…and that sustains me. I’ll never write like Stephen King, much less become a zillionaire doing it, but I figure I’m in the top 1% of people that call themselves a “writer”, and actually make a living doing it.
So congrats to me.
The point to this ramble is simply to remind you that you can do anything you want in this world, and that bears repeating to our 10 year old children, and ourselves at 57 years of age. While I will assume you are well into your career as you read this, your life remains. Learn the skill. Learn the art. Practice. Go back to the drawing board. Practice more. Pour yourself into it. Refine your skill.
No, you probably will not become the “greatest of all time” but maybe that’s not your goal. Maybe, like mine, your goal is to “fully enjoy my craft proficiently and refine my abilities over time”.
Because if that’s the case, then yes, you are more than capable of that. And that’s a beautiful goal that leads to a rich and wonderful life. Which is an even better goal and dream.
Welcome to September. School is back, things remain weird but we’re constantly optimistic, and cooler temps are on the horizon. EXPLORE your life, set your goals, and dream big – and create the life you’ve always wanted.
Benjamin D. Schooley