Rewind 20 years and I was a young kid with crazy dreams and aspirations. (Check me out, I’m on the right)
One day I wanted to be a professional wrestler, the next day an astronaut, and the next day a dinosaur.
I honestly think that I wanted to be everything cool as a kid from a superhero to an insect to a garbage man back then.
Funny thing is, out of all of the “you can be whatever you want” choices, I decided I wanted to become a garbage man.
Yes, I said garbage man.
The logic all made sense to me: (1) I would get to ride on the back of the garbage truck (aka superhero status); (2) I would be able to hop off and hurl trash bags into the back (again this requires super human strength); (3) watch everything get crushed (with my super power lever).
I would have done ANYTHING to be a trash man back then…
And of course, every time the garbage truck came down our street I’d run over to my parents and tell them how bad I wanted to be a garbage man when i grew up. All they would do was say “you can be whatever you want to be” and would keep encouraging me to “dream big”.
They both would say, “Jamin, you can do anything you put your mind to; you can be anything you want to me.”
Now, I wasn’t your average kid…and whenever anyone told me anything I questioned it every time. I analyzed it. I broke it down. (Well I broke it down as best an 8 year old could anyway).
I was really lucky in a way because from an early age I was surrounded by wonderful people (parents, teachers, coaches, mentors, relatives, etc) who loved me and cared about my success.
They all had good intentions when they gave me advice, and despite my hesitation to believe everything they told me about how easy it was to be whatever I wanted…I eventually started believing I could do it.
Perhaps I CAN ACTUALLY be anything I want to be, I used to tell myself.
I think this is the same logic that convinced me to tell my little bro that if he put on Superman underwear and wore a red towel as a cape he would be able to fly out of our 2nd floor bedroom window with no problem. “You can do it bro, all you gotta do is believe. Just like mom said”.
He was in full costume, Superman dralls, eye goggles plus towel, when dad busted into the room and ruined my entire experiment.
I’ll never forget that day…
Today, I see things a bit more clear – and I like to refer to my parents “you can be anything you want to be” speech as Life’s Biggest Lie.
The cold hard truth is: NO, you can’t be anything you want to be. (watch the video below for proof, and a good laugh)
Now before you furiously scroll to the bottom of this post to leave me an angry comment about how I am a dream crusher or anything like that allow me to explain…
We’ve all heard it since we were kids. “You can be anything you want to be” or “If you believe it, you can achieve it” or “Set your mind to do it, work hard, never quit, and you will become successful.” It sounds magical I know. Almost too good to be true in a weird round-a-bout way.
And I’m sure our parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors wanted to do nothing but inspire us to dream big and to go after our dreams with reckless abandon. They wanted us to achieve more than they did. They wanted us to become successful. We can’t blame them for that.
There is just one minor problem. Their logic was flawed. You cannot do whatever you want. We cannot become anything we want to be.
If that was even remotely true, every guy out there would be a hall of fame millionaire athlete and every female would be a princess who fell in love and lived happily ever after (please correct me if I’m wrong on that one ladies).
I know I’ll probably take some heat for saying you can’t be anything you want to be but I don’t care. If you’re an adult who still believes this is true, perhaps you still believe in the Tooth Fairy or maybe you live in Narnia, who knows.
I don’t always write to make you feel good (you’d have to pay me to do that), I write to help you grow and develop physically, mentally, and emotionally. Besides, I’m sure none of the people who will hate on this post are astronauts, NBA all-stars, the president of the United States, or a princess in a far away land anyway!
Look, I know saying you can’t be anything you want to be may go against everything anyone has ever told you in life, but trying to become something you’re not designed to become does nothing but set you up for failure, sadness, and heartbreak. I see this happen all the time. If you don’t believe me, just look around you and listen.
To make things worse, it seems like everyone is now a self-help “guru” or “motivational speaker” all of a sudden.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of hearing and seeing people spread false hope and hype all over the internet. Quite frankly, I hate most quotes. Sure, many quotes sound great…and I’m not trying to disrespect any of the people who post quotes or get inspired by quotes. All I’m saying is that quotes are grossly overrated and many of them as just downright impractical.
HERE’S MY STORY
Let me just say that I never reached my original childhood dream of becoming the neighborhood trash collector.
In fact, my career path took a complete 180 when I was 8 years old.
You see, my mom always wanted to be able to play tennis, but in her day, black people weren’t allowed at most tennis courts, much less country clubs. She never had a lesson in her life, but she had a true passion for the game.
So one day she took my brother and I to the local YMCA and had us hit some balls around. I had never played tennis before but for some weird reason I was pretty good at it the first time. I could keep a rally and had decent form. So she found me a coach.
Several years later I was the #1 ranked tennis player in the United States in the 12 and under age group.
Fast forward two years and I was a sponsored athlete with Reebok and Wilson Sporting Goods and was traveling the world playing tennis.
It was pretty friggen awesome.
Long story short I had a pretty decent tennis career. I was ranked top 10 in the United States throughout high school. I played Division 1 tennis on a full scholarship at the University of Miami (and later Clemson). I got to travel the world and see some really cool places, meet some really cool people, and achieved a world ranking the ATP tour.
I never reached my ultimate goal of winning a bunch of grand slams and becoming the greatest tennis player of all time, but I had an amazing run and it was a great experience.
I guess you could say that whole trash guy thing didn’t really work out…
The weird thing about tennis was…it came so easy to me. It just seemed so natural. In fact, there were quite a few other kids who were my age who had the same coaches I did…who practiced the same amount of hours I did…who lifted the same amount of weights…ran the same amount of sprints…who never achieved the same success.
It just seemed as if the amount of time they spent practicing and training just didn’t really matter – even though they were doing the exact same things I was.
I’m not trying to pump sunshine up my own ass by saying ‘how great i was’ or anything. These are just observations I’ve made over the years as an athlete. Some people have it and some people don’t and I think the same success principles apply to just about every profession.
The idea that we are all born with an unlimited list of career possibilities that if pursued diligently will translate into success if you “work hard” or “believe in yourself” is a set-up for adults…and one of the biggest lies you can tell a young kid.
HERE’S MY THEORY
We are all born with different strengths, weaknesses, competencies and talents. I like to call this combo your success “toolbox”.
I believe that every single one of us is given a unique set of “tools” at birth. Unique motivations, unique gifts, and several other unique intangibles. The chances of you making it to the top of any profession with the wrong set of tools in your success toolbox is almost impossible.
You see, not everyone is cut out to be an NBA star, a doctor, a movie star, a fitness model, a scientist, etc. Some people just SUCK at basketball…other people just SUCK at math or science…etc…and some people are really GOOD at basketball (or tall as hell)…or GOOD at math or science. For example, I could study hard for 100 hours for a biology test in college and still get a C, but in economics or law I was a straight A student with minimal effort. Could I have been a nobel prize winning scientist if I studied extra hard for hours on end? Perhaps…but I wouldn’t put money on that EVER happening…
You can’t climb Mount Everest with the wrong tools in your tool belt. You’ll fail every time.
You get the point.
Quite honestly I would have SUCKED as a trash man because it turns out I’m a huge germ-o-phobe. I’d probably jump off the smelly garbage truck, be too scared to touch any of the bags (much less throw them in the truck), and get fired for missing work all the time.
But I digress…
The entire point of my message today is: I truly believe you can be anything you have the talents and gifts to be…or perhaps even what a higher power equips you to be if you’re the spiritual type. You just can’t necessarily be anything you want to be. None of us can.
How can any of us expect to reach even one simple goal if we are constantly seeking thousands of other goals? The idea that we can be anything we want to be suggests a lack of focus, a lack of discipline, and pretty much ensures failure.
I prefer to think of it in a different context…
Instead of asking “What do you want to be” ask yourself this instead “What do you think you were created or designed you to be?”
The goal is not to try and figure out what you should desire to become, but to discover what you were created/designed to do since birth. Why were you placed on this earth? What is your PURPOSE.
Pause and let that sink in for a moment.
Oscar Pistorius makes history as the first amputee to compete in the world championships.
I think that in order to fulfill your purpose in life you need five things: Passion, Desire, Ability, Faith, and Patience.
As I’ve said in previous posts, successful people usually have (1) the passion to do; and (2) the patience to wait for the fruits of their labor. Then when you throw Faith, Desire, and Ability into the mix and you have an award winning recipe that will allow you to pursue your unique calling and live a life of PURPOSE and SUCCESS.
Trust me when I tell you this: If you apply this simple formula to your own life you will be much more productive, you’ll be much happier, you’ll get much more satisfaction out of life, and this will all translate into massive success.
The U.S. Army hit a homerun with their “Be All You Can Be” campaign back in the day.
This slogan can mean many different things to each one of us but I think it means taking what you have and making the most of it. I think it means defining who you are and then realizing your potential. I think it means taking your gifts, your competencies, your desires, your education, your unique “toolset” and using them to fulfill your life’s purpose.
If you go out and shoot 1000 jump shots every day, take 1000 free throws, and hire a coach, will you get better at basketball? Maybe.
If you also go out an buy a new tennis racket, hit 1000 serves every day, take lessons, and practice for 5 hours per day, will you get better at tennis? Probably.
Will you become an NBA star or a legend on the ATP tour? Who knows, there are no guarantees…but the odds are definitely not in your favor. Especially if you don’t have the tools in your success toolbox to help you get the job done.
Honestly, you can believe as much as you want that you’ll beat the current UFC World Champion in a fight…but unless you are equipped with the skills to win you’re just going to get your face pounded in. No quote, book, or motivational guru will be there to save you either…
Look, success is not a direct result of desire. You cannot really be “anything you want to be”, at least you can’t accomplish this in the context most of us grew up believing it to be…
Instead go become the best at what you CAN be. Go pursue the things that you have the talent and gifts to do – what you are equipped and designed to do.
Life’s greatest reward is the satisfaction of success when pursuing your true purpose, your true calling. Whatever that is, who knows. I can’t tell you the answer to that. You’ll have to be the one who figures that out. But whatever it is, go DO IT and then make it your goal to become incrementally better at it each and every day.
Go forth and conquer your life’s purpose. Be all you can be.
Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this post feel free to share it with a friend and click ‘Like’. I look forward to reading your comments below.