Disappointment is a genuine fear. It is such an awesome foe that it has aborted many a dream. When I asked one woman (may she RIP) why didn’t she ever get excited when a person shared their goals, she said she never wanted to get her hopes up because of her fear of being let down. Instead, she either had a wait and see attitude, or went against the idea presented to her altogether. On the outside it looked like she was a hater, but the reality was she had been disappointed so much that she imposed those fears onto others. If a person can be stopped from aiming too high, the crash would not be as hard.
As she was a very influential person during my formative years, I believed her enough to let it scare me. At that time in my life I was used to things like academics and sports coming easy to me, but when it was time to work hard to get even greater results I would become intimidated. Not mastering the practical aspects of my gifts was my greatest impediment. I will never forget the words of my tennis coach who always told me I could work hard, go pro, and beat a lot of the players out there. However, there was a “but”. She said to me, “You’re inconsistent.” That was exactly 30 years ago and I never forgot those words. She saw something in me that had teeth and would bite me at the most inopportune times. My first year of college at an elite institution was proof of that. You mean I have to study to get an A? I have to work hard now? How am I going to compete with those kids with successful parents behind them and private school education? I was like the high school basketball players I used to hear coaches at my alma mater talk about. They said they wanted to look pretty on the court and do high-flying feats like slam dunk during a championship game, but couldn’t bother learning technique. Like me, those players relied too heavily on raw talent. “You see them Boston Celtics?” I remember one coach saying. “They don’t look pretty but they have technique.” Those words stuck with me too, but it would take eons before I understood their gravity.
People who did not know me back then would be shocked at this revelation as I’m always told I go after what I want and get it. However, there were years and years of self-doubt, struggle, battles for my faith, and trying to overcome the sting of some people thinking I was delusional. I am the type who projects way into the future, and very often the things I go after take a lot of time and effort. For example, much of the things I’ve accomplished in the past ten years were in my heart to do over 20 years ago. A friend of mine still has the list somewhere of all the things I knew were going to happen for me. Mind you, at that time I was young, dumb, and had all of my belongings in one room. I had moved out on my own for the last time, and was so broke that I would sneak into the kitchen and nibble away at my friend’s food, hoping she’d think someone else was in it. It was a humbling experience to not be able to afford enough to eat, but I knew one day I would not have to worry about not having enough of anything. And when that day finally came, I remember I sat in the living room by myself and cried in disbelief. Struggling in a certain way had become so normal that when I no longer had to, it confused me. While I realize some of my bumps and bruises in life were the result of sharp learning curves, those temporary sacrifices were for the hope of permanent gains, and the cultivation of a no-nonsense, do-what-I gotta-do-no-matter-what way of life. I ain’t playing.
In the time between goal setting and manifestation, you will hear a lot of things. There is this false belief that the minute you say it, it’s supposed to happen. You will hear things like, ”Are you still going to do that?”, “Last year you said such and such. So what happened?” , “So I thought you said God was going to do X, Y, and Z!” This is why it’s often best to either keep your goals to yourself or share them with people who know the sacrifices involved, the hard work, and level of faith required to achieve them. And sometimes it’s not even that people don’t believe in you. Some play it safer than others, seeing risks as unwise. However, calculated risks are those where you do your homework, count the costs and consequences, and understand that if things don’t work out right away, it’s an opportunity to reinforce the idea that things will not always come easy or at the time you want. Not being afraid of temporary discomfort and having a strong resolve that has to be pried out of your cold, dead hands are serious weapons. The Bible clearly states the following in James 1:6-8; “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do”.
How did I get to this place called Here? By looking over my life and seeing what my experiences told me about myself. Listening to wise counsel. Being single-minded about the things I prayed about no matter how long they took. Challenging my paradigms and actions. Learning how to hear I was going about something the wrong way and regrouping. Asking a lot of questions. Being willing to sacrifice. Knowing that the ability to recover is always there. Knowing when to ask for help. Looking at people who were doing what I wanted to do and imitate the principles they applied. Being afraid and doing it anyway. Ignoring the naysayer and keeping more to myself. Losing a sense of entitlement understanding that God owes me nothing. Knowing how to convert disappointment into teachable moments. Getting out of my comfort zone. Having faith in God. Having strong faith in God. Having a very strong faith in God. And if you think I believe these things because I had it made in the shade growing up, guess again. All of this came by way of burying my face in the pillow and wetting it with tears (how dramatic but I did. And my eyes are big so that’s a lot of saline happening there), wearing a groove in the carpet at church where I prayed to believe in myself, and paying tuition at the College for Babes and Fools. The point is I had to figure it out and it wasn’t pretty.
And one more thing. What I do is not just for me but for those behind me. I have a conviction about establishing legacy. It is supremely important to show the younger ones in my family what is possible. As my college freshman cousin once told me, “Talking to you helps me understand myself better.” He called upon the need to know what others in the family were like and what traits they possessed so that he would know what he’s made of and why he is the way he is. The younger ones need to know the gifts and talents that may rest in them that run in the family, and understand that they are meant to manifest. The ones who feel like a maverick and dance to the plucking of their own banjo can ask me how I did it. The ones who are methodical, objective, and humanitarian can ask my sisters how they did it. Others who are free-spirited and not afraid to do something new at an age where the world says they should be settled down can ask one of my globe-trotting cousins how they did it. And another who needs to know how to be a good father, a good mother, and understand the power of family and unconditional love can receive counsel from another set of cousins from the older generation. We got something for everybody and we can’t hide it. We shouldn’t hide it.
I want to encourage you, whoever you are, that no one is born a star. Things will not always happen the way you want and when you want, but that does not mean you cancel yourself out before you get started. It will take a lot of confidence and hard work to DO YOU. You will have to know what you’re made of through trial and error, and at times suffer the sting of disappointment. You may very well have to pay tuition at the College for Babes and Fools. I graduated valedictorian, so I can help you out!
All joking aside, en route to the life you want you will have to deal with life period. Don’t let it scare you. I am proof that you will be richly rewarded if you lose the fear of the process and just let it do what it do. Set your mind on how you see yourself and find someone who emulates that. Ask questions, find out what you need to do, and connect with people who don’t count it robbery to support you. I am not this special person who waves a magic wand and things happen today. Sometimes they do, but I had to earn my stripes first. You can too. No, YOU WILL!