What It Takes to Achieve Something Great

focus, fear and perspective

“Life is a series of decisions that cuts off infinite possibilities at every turn. Most people look at that as a sad, unfortunate fact of life. Successful people see it as a source of tremendous power.” —Mark Joyner

Life experiences shape who we are as people. The experience I’m about to share taught me what it takes to achieve something great, and I’ll never forget it. I was so nervous and uncomfortable that I just wanted to disappear. So many thoughts raced through my mind and I felt intense fear and adrenaline.

I just watched a kid break his collarbone.

The kid who did the bone breaking went by the name Luke and I had to wrestle him next. At the age of 12, in my mind, a wrestling match was a fight. It was just a matter of time before my name was called over the microphone in the big gymnasium where the wrestling tournament was taking place. Finally, our names were called and it was time for us to meet at the center of the mat.  During that moment my mind was blank and I was like a deer in the headlights.  The whistle blew and within one minute he pinned me on my back.

Everything I was worried about was done in less than a minute. What was I so afraid of?

I was very disappointed in myself and sad. It was very unlike me to get beat like that. But, there’s more. Remember, that was a tournament. The very next day, our team was hopping on a buss to Luke’s school for a team match. That’s right, I had to wrestle him again the very next day.

Here I am at the age of 12 and I just watched Luke break a kids collarbone and pin me in less than one minute.

Let’s just say I didn’t sleep well that night.

The Big Day Arrived

The next thing I knew, I was standing at the edge of the mat staring at Luke on the other side while we held our hands to our hearts and the national anthem played. I was a small kid, which meant I was the very first match. Feeling terrified about the big moment coming just minutes in the future, adrenaline was pumping, and I clearly remember thinking to myself over and over, “Just don’t stop, he’s a kid like you, you can do this.” Literally saying it like a mantra.

It was go time.

I ran out to the center of the mat again. We shook hands, and boom, the fight started just like that, no more time to think about it. I wrestled for 10 years, and despite being young, this was one of the best matches of my life. It was a nonstop dog fight at full tilt for the full duration of the match. Luke was an awesome wrestler and a good guy. 

Not only did I score 16 whopping points, I won! There was no feeling like it in the world. It was a win for the team, but also for me personally.  From that day forward Luke was afraid of me the same way I was afraid of him. After that match, I never lost to Luke again in any future tournaments. 

This picture is from a future tournament. I took first and that’s Luke next to me.

The question is, what changed overnight that cause such a dramatic turnaround?

For one, my father talked some sense into me.

Second, there was no way I was going to lose again and I made up my mind about that. Honestly, I started saying that mantra,“Just don’t stop, he’s a kid like you, you can do this,” long before the match. Being a kid, I didn’t have any reason for doing that besides the fact it made me feel better. It kept me distracted from other feelings and thoughts and at the same time pumped me up.

That day not only stands out to me because I won, but it also changed me as a person. Something I most likely didn’t consciously acknowledge at the time.

What I Learned from That Day

You can only achieve something great if you’re willing to embrace your greatest fears.

Whether you’re 12 years old or 40 years old the same rule applies.

I’m not saying you have to overcome the fear. I don’t see fear as a bad thing. You have to embrace the fear. I didn’t overcome my fear from one day to the next, I was still scared shitless. I did, however, change the way I was thinking about it which allowed me to embrace it. Rather than let it anchor me down, I let it create focus and motivate me.

At that time, I realized, he’s just a kid like I was and thought, “What’s the worst that could happen?” I believed I had what it would take to win. Again, as a kid, this was not strategic or conscious but looking back at what happened, that’s what worked for me.

Now, I’m 37 years old and have founded my second business, Change Creator. I face the fear of the unknown all the time, but by embracing it, I have been able to launch the first magazine for social entrepreneurs and have interviewed icons like Guy Kawasaki, Tony Robbins and Arianna Huffington. At one point, I never interviewed anyone and certainly had no idea how to create a magazine.

Have you ever spent $30,000 on a startup idea you believe in? Maybe $1,000 for a course to help you learn a new skill?  It’s scary unless you have deep pockets. You always think to yourself, “What if nothing comes out of it and I just threw money out the window?”

Have you ever spoken in front of 100 people who expected you to be an expert on a topic?

Everyone has a different life and financial situation to consider, but what usually helps me is to think about all possible outcomes and come to peace with them.

For example, I see three “what ifs?” to consider in our $30,000 startup idea scenario:

  • What if you do nothing and you save it? You will be the same person in the same place with $30,000.
  • What if you lose it all? Will you still be the same person, but with $30,000 less? No, you will be a person that invested $30,000 in an opportunity that gave you priceless experience, lessons you can share later, and a better chance of success when you try again. It’s up to you how you see it.
  • What if things work out? You will be a person that changed your life, and you will have a story to tell. 

Perspective plays such an important role in the life we lead. It can create thoughts that anchor us down and inspire poor behavior. Or it can propel us forward.

As my friend Joel Brown once said,

“The antidote to being average is action.” 

I hope this story offers some inspiration and perspective. You can achieve great things if you have the courage.

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