Never Surrender

Plant busting through asphaltMy mom’s boyfriend had just thrown me to the ground and kicked me senseless with his steel-toe boots, eventually cracking two ribs. When I covered my ribs he riddled my face with four of five quick punches. Once he had his fill, he drug me to my room and threw me on the bed, swearing curses over me if I tried to defend my mom again. Then he slammed the door shut. I rolled onto my side and licked the cut on my lower lip as I tried again to draw a deep breath.

“What’s the point?” I gasped.

I was fourteen years old and fighting day in and day out with my mom’s grown boyfriends when I should have been enjoying life with friends like a normal kid my age. That night my heart began crying out, over and over: “Why does life have to be so hard? What did I do to deserve this?”

I began sobbing into my covers. “I can’t do this anymore,” I choked out. “No one cares. No one has ever cared. Who would even miss me if I was gone?”

I had come face to face with the toughest fight every one of us faces—the fight within ourselves. I wanted to thrive, to live a good life, and to reach my potential, but it seemed foolish to believe it was possible. Inside, I knew I had only two options. I could wipe off the blood and tears again and keep fighting for my dreams. Or I could surrender to my circumstances and let them dictate my future. It was ultimately a decision about my potential. Most importantly, it was my decision.

I closed my eyes and thought about everything I’d been through. Then I thought about everything I still wanted to do in my life. In my head, I wanted to quit. But my heart screamed, “Don’t surrender!” I went back and forth between my head and my heart for nearly a hour, dabbing the blood from my mouth every couple minutes. Finally my heart wore down my head. I closed my eyes and made a vow to never again let quitting be an option. If somebody stole my life that was one thing; but I wasn’t going to surrender it on my own. Neither should you. NEVER surrender your dreams.

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.

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.

 

 

Bouncing Back From Adversity

One of my biggest challenges growing up was learning to own the life I’d been given. That may sound like a no-brainer to those of you that have heard my story. After all, I had no choice in all the experiences of those early years. But the truth is that everybody experiences things they didn’t choose.

Many people spend the rest of their lives protesting and rebelling against the injustices of their past. They fill their minds with a long list of excuses for not chasing their dreams.

Others choose to own their lives and rise above their circumstances regardless of what happened.

One of the keys to bouncing back from adversity is accepting responsibility for your future, in thick and thin. That doesn’t mean you remain where you are. And it doesn’t mean you downplay negative circumstances or act like you enjoyed every moment you’ve been alive. What it does mean is that you reach a point where you admit, “Nobody but me can make something of my life.” It’s ultimately an admission that you have no excuses for not giving your all to be successful.

I know because I’ve been there. There were so many days that I had every excuse to strive for nothing but survival. I could make a compelling argument that life was out to get me. Yet, instead of finding excuses for not succeeding I realized that I had to find a way around them and do whatever it took to be successful.

We all have reasons – some of them very legitimate reasons – to stop pursuing our dreams. I must have had a couple thousand before I reached middle school. You might too. But you can’t let your reasons for quitting dictate what you do. Instead of spending time wallowing in your past, you have to spend your time finding a way to a brighter future.

In the end, excuses are the nails used to build a house of failure. It’s OK to acknowledge they are there, but to be successful and achieve your dreams you have to learn to not pick them up. People who succeed do what they say they’re going to do. People who fail make excuses for falling short.

Excuses are a sign of weakness, and they pave the road to failure. Excellence is a sign of strength, and it paves the road to success.

Drop the excuses and embrace excellence at every turn.