How to Succeed
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One day, when I was about 13 years old, I decided to spend the afternoon with another boy I knew from middle school. Spending the afternoon together essentially meant we would be riding our bikes around, visiting various stores and other kids we knew who were our age. We might also go into a convenience store or two and play some arcade games.
The guy I was spending time with, Greg, had never been particularly good at anything, as far as I knew. His dad was a plumber and his mother was very religious, and she spent a lot of time lecturing Greg on spiritual matters. He was not all that popular in school, not all that great of a student, and not all that good at athletics. In sum, he really had no distinguishing characteristics.
In fact, on that day I believe I was spending time with Greg mostly because I had nothing in particular to do. I had friends whom I considered far more interesting because they knew girls I liked, for example. I do not think Greg even knew any girls. I did not know a lot about Greg and neither did anyone else at my school. The boy was also considered a little strange because, due to his religion, his parents never let him take medicine. There were some other things that his religion required, which made Greg seem a little off in the eyes of other students. I think he may have had a health problem or two due to not having been able to take medicine while growing up.
We started our day around 11 in the morning. We went to a 7-11 and got some snacks and played video games. We rode our bikes to a mall and looked at tennis shoes at a Foot Locker. We had lunch at the food court and talked about the girls at our school. We then attempted to ride our bikes around town to see if a few people we knew might be at home. None of them were.
As I spent time with him, I got the sense that Greg was a little depressed. He did not stand up tall when he walked and he looked down when he spoke. He did not sound very animated and was not all that interesting. He often criticized other people. Notwithstanding this, I came to realize that he was actually a pretty nice person and very likable in many ways. I enjoyed his company a lot that day.
As an aside, I saw Greg several years later, after his life had changed, and he was a completely different person. He was extremely nice, more confident and likable, and he asked me lots of questions about myself. He was not the same person I had known years before.
Around four in the afternoon, we rode our bikes by a store that sold musical instruments, specifically guitars and drums. I had taken guitar lessons at the store recently and wanted to stop by to say hello and see if my teacher was there. When we walked into the store, the clerks and cashiers immediately sprung to life. All of them crowded around Greg. They knew exactly who he was, and they started asking him if he wanted a “private room” in which to play. I did not even know that Greg played an instrument, and I do not think anyone at school knew this either. Greg sheepishly said “okay” and the storekeepers took us back to a room that had a set of drums in it.
Greg began playing the drums, and it was among the most amazing things I have ever seen. He played with an incredible level of passion and skill, and in a window outside of the private room a huge group of people started to gather. I could see one of the shopkeepers on the phone looking into the room, and he appeared to be shouting into the receiver:
“He’s here right now–in room ‘A.’ Yes, I’m serious!”
After 10 minutes had passed, there were at least 15 people or so who were completely mesmerized, watching Greg play the drums. He had started singing along while he played. Greg was so talented that I became uncomfortable. I felt like I was in the presence of someone quite famous.
As Greg played, his entire disposition changed. He was extremely self-confident and he sat up straight. He hypnotized those around him. He was enthusiastic. He smiled. He was in a different zone. He was a completely different person while playing. Apparently, drums were not even his main instrument. He played guitar!
That was the last time I ever spent time alone with Greg. At the end of that school year, I transferred to another school. I heard a year later that Greg had gotten a recording contract in Los Angeles. Greg was so talented at what he did that he was sponsored, and he was moved to Los Angeles the second he was discovered. After 25 years, I looked up Greg and saw that he had a very successful music career and was internationally famous. You never know what people are capable of or who they will become.
Each of us has some sort of innate skill that we are blessed with. You have a skill. I have a skill. We all have a skill.
I wonder deep down what would have happened to Greg if he had never been allowed to play an instrument and that skill had never come out. What would have happened if he had been told what to be and his true uniqueness had never been allowed to manifest? This would have been a real tragedy, and he would never have become the person he was capable of being.
I know that if I had ever tried to pursue music at least one of my parents would have made fun of me. I would have been told that music was for “sissies” or “people who cannot get real jobs.” I am sure you have had dreams that other people have criticized. I can think of numerous dreams I have had that teachers, parents, friends, and others made fun of, and which I never pursued when I was younger.
What are you good at that needs to be shared with the world? What is your skill?
One of the greatest things about the United States is that this country is based on the idea that we can discover and make the most of our personal gifts and strengths. Under ideologies like communism and fascism, people are expected to do whatever the government tells them, and to be the person the government tells them to be. But here you can be exactly who you want to be. There is absolutely no barrier between you and your dreams.
Many people never realize who they are or what their potential is. When I look around at my own life and the lives of others, I see and hear the reasons for this:
-We are told to fit in, not to stand out.
-We are encouraged to play by the rules in order to have a stable future, rather than to challenge the rules and seek out the unique lives we want.
-We are led to believe that it is more important to be popular than to stand out and be productive.
-We are told to have goals we can meet rather than goals that challenge us.
Negative and limiting messages coming from peers, parents, bosses, coworkers, television, books, and so forth only limit us and prevent us from being the people we are capable of being, and from being the people we really want to be. My career advice is to follow what we are capable of being not the limits others give us.
I want you to be the person you are capable of being. What comes naturally and effortlessly to you? What are you best at? What makes you happy?
Each and every one of us has something that we are exceptional at. We are in a world where we can be whomever we choose to be. This is what you need to do. You need to discover who this person is and you need to be this person. There is a world out there which offers constant happiness, security, and enjoyment. This world comes into being when you begin doing what you love and are talented at.
This is what you need. When you discover this, your job and life will be enjoyable and you will do well. Concentrate on your strengths and find and be the person you want to be. God gave you certain talents for a reason. You have an obligation to use them, and to make the most of your life.
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