A New Light

Light thru crack in groundColonel Sanders chicken recipe was turned down 1,009 times. Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times. Abraham Lincoln failed in business twice and lost in seven political elections. Walt Disney’s attempt to secure financing for Disney World was turned down 302 times. Albert Einstein was believed to be mentally handicapped in elementary school and was later expelled from high school.

Life is a process, not a single event. And a process is always marked by successes and failures. That’s important to know because it’s easy to get down whenever you experience a setback from your dreams. But being resilient and bouncing back higher demands that you take ownership of who you are and what you do—the good and the bad—and keep moving forward. That means that while you must always strive to improve, you should also give yourself room to fail. I’m not talking about making excuses or setting your expectations low. I’m talking about setting your standards high and pushing yourself as hard as you possibly can while maintaining the perspective that you will still make mistakes, sometimes big ones.

The key to reaching your dreams is not avoiding failure; it’s going to happen no matter how talented or mindful you are, and especially if you’re going after something big. The key is knowing what to do when you fail. The first thing you should do is not panic. Every successful person has failed numerous times. The second thing you should do is take ownership of what you did and determine what the results revealed about you. Finally, you should take immediate action in a better direction. A higher direction. That’s how you fail forward. You don’t wait to feel better about yourself. You don’t wait for the dust to settle or the situation to somehow fix itself. You do what you have to do right away, whether that’s apologizing to someone or redoing the work or practicing another hour until you get it right.

Remember that the key to success is in rising higher each time you hit the floor. In fact, you couldn’t learn to bounce if you weren’t thrown down once in a while. As long as there is breath in your lungs, you need to hold onto the truth that failure is not fatal. The greatness of your life is in direct proportion to your willingness to keep fighting for what you believe in despite the missteps along the way. Do that consistently, for long enough, and your success will far outweigh your failures.

It’s a new year. If you haven’t already, now is a perfect time to begin fighting for your dreams. No matter what happened last year or any year before. By this time next year, your life will be seen in a new light.

The Power of Your Dreams…

We all have dreams when we are young and resilient and capable of extraordinary faith in our future. It’s a time when we still believe that whatever we desire from life can become a reality one day. The truth is, that reality never changes. What does change is that as we grow older, we begin losing our faith in our dreams.

Somewhere along the way, this thing people call “reality” hits. Suddenly you realize that your circumstances are not connecting the dots to the future you imagined. Maybe your parents are divorced and you have no money or you’ve been abused or you are not the right size or color or gender or…fill in the blank.

For whatever reason—and there are always reasons—what you dream of doing and what you believe you can “really” do become two very different realities. Others’ comments often fuel this belief.

They begin asserting things like, “You can’t do that,” and, “You need to live in reality,” and, “That’s impossible,” and, “Maybe in your next life.” The comments are occasionally from a place of good intentions, especially if family and friends are just trying to protect you from disappointment. But such comments do not convey the truth about you or your future.

The fact is that all dreamers, including the greatest achievers in history, have heard these same comments:

Harrison Ford was told he couldn’t act.

Oprah Winfrey was told she was unfit for television.

Michael Jordan was told he couldn’t play varsity basketball.

Amelia Earhart was told she was the wrong gender.

Albert Einstein was told he would amount to nothing.

Anne Frank was told she didn’t matter.

Elvis Presley was told he wasn’t going anywhere.

Rosa Parks was told she was the wrong color.

The difference between those who realize their dreams and those who don’t is simple: Those who realize their dreams refuse to accept someone else’s “reality” for their lives. They dare to keep pursuing their dreams despite the unfavorable odds and constant objections.

The Test of True Dreams

Child and Leaf ShipThere’s a telltale sign that helps you determine whether your dream is something you’re truly passionate about. Bring your dream to mind right now and ask yourself: Do I think about this when I wake up each morning and throughout each day?

It might sound like a simplistic test. But if you’re honest with your answer the question is an effective gauge of the authenticity of your dreams, because you can’t fake passion. If your dream is not your passion, you won’t think about it when you wake up. You won’t be excited about it all the time. This doesn’t mean it’s not perfectly normal to have hobbies and subjects that you enjoy from time to time. I have a handful of activities that I’m interested in. But there’s one major difference between those interests and my dreams: mind space. I simply don’t think about the other topics even one-tenth as much as I think about:

1) loving and leading my family

2) helping others through my story.

I still enjoy basketball—it was a major part of my life for a very long time. I’ll catch a game on TV or attend one live when I can. But I’d skip those games in a second over a chance to take my wife Kristie on a date or watch my son Cameron throw a baseball or see my daughter Kiersten spike a volleyball. And I wouldn’t think twice about skipping a basketball game for an opportunity to share my story, even with only one person.

Outside of loving my family and helping others through my story, there is nothing else I’d call my passion. I believe those two activities give my life its best chance to have the greatest impact on the world.

Now the question comes back to you.

What are you truly passionate about? When you find the dream that wakes you up in the morning and occupies your mind throughout the day, that’s when you know it passes the authenticity test and you’ll have the passion to see it through.

You Determine the Weight of Others’ Opinions

ScaleThe fear of what others think is a major reason many people don’t pursue their dreams. While it’s in our nature to give consideration to what other people think about us, there is a huge difference between considering what other people think and fearing what they think.

It is very possible to consider what others think about you without letting their thoughts dictate your actions. It is nearly impossible to fear what other people think about you and keep that from hindering your progress. Giving too much weight to the opinions of others will eventually derail you altogether.

The desires to be liked, accepted, and to “fit in” are powerful forces. When we are young, it is easy to let them become the most powerful forces in our lives. But if you are serious about chasing down your dreams, you can’t give them so much power.

That starts by understanding that no matter where you try to go and what you try to accomplish, people will always have opinions. Some will agree with you and support your efforts. Others will not. They’ll say you can’t. You won’t. You shouldn’t. You’d be stupid to. Some of them will be adamant about their opinions. But that’s okay, because that’s all they are—opinions, words floating in the air that have no power over your actions except the power you give them. Choose to only give power to your own words and the words of those whom you trust.

As for the rest?

Let them drift to the ground where they can do you no harm. Then keep marching forward. It’s your dream, not theirs.

DON’T SETTLE

Everyone who has ever lived can find a reason to settle for less than what they are capable of achieving. Life is very hard at times. We get burned out, tired, exhausted, afraid, frustrated, defeated, lost, scared and hopeless. We all have these feelings at some point. They make us want to give up, stop fighting, settle for something less than the best.

I’ve been there. I’ve been kicked, beaten and bruised by what this life dishes out. I have scars and wounds that may fade with time but they’ll never completely go away.

So do you.

Despite all the doubters and difficult circumstances you may face, settling for less than what you are capable of has to be your greatest enemy in life because it’s the only enemy you can personally defeat. You can’t always control the forces around you – Things like who your parents are and what choices they make or where you live or whether or not you have any money. But you can control your response to the forces around you. It’s not always easy, but how you react remains your choice. You can let the forces shape you, or you can refuse to let something or someone else control who you become.

Your surroundings often act like a funnel, trying to squeeze you into a clone of the others around you. The pull of peer pressure is to fit in, dress the same, act the same and even misbehave the same. But the promise of peer pressure – that you will be successful if you fit in – is a lie. It is a lie because the people who go on to achieve great things are never clones of those around them. They are unique, one-of-a-kind individuals. That’s because every dream inside a person is unique, and if your dream is unique, you must be too in order to see it happen.