Wow – my recent lead article here stirred up some interesting comments. I had referenced Michael Phelps stunning accomplishment at the Olympics – and that he had ADD, divorced parents, no college degree and a DUI in his background. I went on to say that too many advantages early in life may be more of a disadvantage than a blessing. Challenges often are the motivating factor to bring out our very best.
Well, the questions came pouring in. Questions from people who suspect that their lives have been too easy – and consequently, maybe they have missed developing skills or levels of success that hardships would have stimulated.
Here are just a couple of those questions:
I may be one of those… So, now what? I’m not ready to give up, but don’t know how to overcome this “early-life-blessing-later-life-curse” thing. Do I need to go back and pick up some success stuff I somehow unknowingly left behind? Am I still doomed to mediocrity just because I got blessed on the front end of life? How do I learn to convert this blessed life-currency at a positive exchange rate for my future?
Or this one:
Dan, You hear a lot of success stories about those who have had something to overcome, but not many about those blessed from the beginning. Can you give some more insight for the mediocre, middleclass, in middle management, who know we have something else to offer, but were never blessed to experience the challenges of more successful leaders?
No, I don’t think you’re guaranteed success if you had nothing but rice and beans growing up and that you had to walk to school, barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways. Or that you’re doomed to mediocrity if you had six pairs of blue jeans, vacations in exotic ports and got a new Mustang on your 16th birthday.
But we do know from lots of lessons in nature that struggle produces strength. Help a caterpillar out of a cocoon and it never becomes a beautiful butterfly. Protect your muscles from any resistance and you’ll stay soft and weak.
So there’s the key. If life hasn’t forced you to struggle for survival, set some goals that you know will stretch you. Here are some ideas:
- Decide to run a marathon. The physical discipline required will allow you to experience the immediate benefits of daily training.
- Give more. You may set a goal of giving 20% rather than 10%. The extra stretch here will loosen up the blindness that greed causes and make you see new ways of generating income.
- Commit to spending one hour a day for personal growth. Choose positive materials for meditation, go to workshops, or sign up for teleseminars. There are many opportunities for stretching yourself in this area.
- Read at least one new book a month. This will accelerate your ability to increase your “preparation” and to see new ways to grow. Remember, “Luck” is when “preparation” meets “opportunity.”
- Design a break in your normal schedule. Getting away from a routine is one of the best ways I know of unlocking creativity and innovation. I have spent 3-4 days at a monastery, just as an attempt to tap into new insights and inspiration. (The Abbey of Gethsemani)
- Create your own timelines. If you want to write a book, decide when you will have the chapter outline completed. If you need to update your resume, decide now to have that completed in two weeks. Whatever it is you want to accomplish, set your timelines to propel you on.
All you’ve got to do to reach new levels of success is to stretch yourself beyond complacency. Recognize that if you are not setting goals that push you forward, you’re likely to be far below your real potential – whether you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth or in a one-room shack in Bangladesh.
And if these don’t work – let’s see – you could put a pebble in your shoe, or tie one hand behind your back, or try to pick up an addiction. No – don’t wish hardship on yourself. There are better ways to prompt yourself to greatness!
And just for the record – yes, I was one of those that got my annual pair of blue jeans and an orange for Christmas, got my bicycle from the county dump, built my first car from junk parts, and had to shovel snow in Buffalo, NY to get to the unheated barn to milk cows (by hand) at 5:00 AM starting when I was 5 years old. I wouldn’t change a thing – but I wouldn’t wish it on anyone and certainly did everything I could to provide more for my children.
If you don’t set goals for yourself, you are doomed to work to achieve the goals of someone else. — Brian Tracy