“We are the sum total of our experiences”–not exactly sure
Most of us have heard the above quote. It sounds good, and I think I believe it. I have this friend of mine. He coaches youth league sports. He is as good of a coach, mentor, and person as you will find. He seems to have been born with the gift of contagious enthusiasm, optimism, and spunk. He makes life look easy, but only because he works his butt off to get what he wants, while people like me are busy complaining what we don’t have. This is his identity. This is who he is. I don’t know when it started, or how he obtained it, but he has it. This identity belongs to him.
We recently had a conversation regarding the players on his team. His question was this:
“How do I get my kids to play with that fire? How do I get them to love the sport, to be aggressive, to want to win?”
While I am far from having the answer to this question, it made me think about where my own fire originated. It made me reflect on where and when I developed enthusiasm and a will to win. Where did I find my identity, and how did it come to be? How did I become the different “things” that I am today? Where did I learn to place emphasis on one quality versus another, and believe myself to be good at some things, while bad at others? The answer that came to mind was this:
It was given to me.
It was given to me by others who showed me how to be. People who told me what I was.
Most of who I feel I am as a person, is because someone took the time to observe a quality and shine a light on it. A coach, teacher, parent, or friend took a particular quality, placed it under a microscope, and had me to believe that this “thing” about me was a quality worth noting, and therefore should be practiced and sharpened.
I watched my son, Grayson, learning to play basketball last year. As he is finding his way in this world, he is unsure of himself, and has no real way of bench-marking just exactly what areas he is strong, and where he is weak on the playing court. After one game last season, in front of his peers, Grayson’s coach said,
“Great job Grayson. You are doing excellent at rebounding, and you hustle as hard as anyone on the team”.
At that exact moment, my son become a hustler, whose emphasis was rebounding. It was a wonderful moment, and I have enjoyed, as well as appreciated, this moment ever since then. Because he was told that he hustles and rebounds well, he decided that he is a hustler and rebound-er. This was a gift given to him through another person’s words.
I remember my first year of football, I was scared to death. I faked an injury during my first two scrimmages and sat on the sideline crying, because I did not know what to do. I had no identity.
After about the third or fourth game, my coach called and left me a message to call him. As I nervously waited to hear what he had to say, he began to praise me. He said,
“I watched you today. You were really tough out there. You played as hard-nosed as anyone out there, and I love how aggressive you were.”
At this moment, my identity was transformed. I immediately went from a scared, anxious, ball of tears, to a tough-nosed, aggressive athlete, who if nothing else, would play hard and hustle. I have carried this with me most of my life. Sure, the coach probably has a rotation of names that he called each week after every game, to give some variation of the same speech…but that didn’t change the result. This was a gift given to me through another person’s words.
I guess that my point is that I don’t believe that you can make a person be anything, but you can show them what it looks like. You can show them what it feels like to be that thing, and if they like it, they can strive to be that until it becomes part of their identity. You can help shape a person into something great. Your words, and your willingness to captivate a person’s attention, just long enough to tell them what you see, can change the entire course of their life.
Isn’t that exciting?
Isn’t that badass, that you can start shaping someone’s future right now?
Sadly, the same goes for the opposite. Be careful with your words, but be grateful that you hold so much power to do so many great things for others, just by telling them where you see greatness.
Unfortunately for teachers, coaches, parents, and mentors, the appreciation for their job well done will often not be recognized until many years down the line, if ever given credit at all. But, at some point, you will be remembered and appreciated for what it is that you did to enhance someone’s life. I appreciate all of the people in my life who have not made me be anything, but have shown me what it looks like to have various qualities, and made me believe that I possessed these qualities as well. Once I believed I had these qualities, it was only a matter of time before they became real.
Peace, Love, and all things Beef related,