Thursday, January 30, 2014

Don't Be Defined by Other People

My last post, I argued against "blooming where you're planted".  If you don't memorize my blog posts, or worse yet, don't read all of them, here is a refresher of my allegedly sage advice.
  1. Don't be defined by other people's expectations of you. I used to tell myself all of the time, If you do what people have always done, you'll get what people have always gotten, and is that enough for you?
  2. Don't confuse wishes with plans.
  3. Recognize that success takes hard work, that there will be times when it's hard and painful. As trite as it is, it is true that tough times don't last - IF YOU DON'T GIVE UP - but tough people do.
  4. Never, never, never, never give up.
I want to ramble on about the first point for a while. Many of us are born into less than favorable circumstances. Maybe your family was poor, you live on a farm, far from the nearest library or gym, you are being raised by a single parent who barely has energy to make dinner after work before falling asleep from exhaustion. There are lots of reasons for the world, and the small number of people around you, to tell you that you won't succeed. Maybe you are an African-American or Latino kid living in an area where you have to worry about being beat up or shot on the way home from school. Maybe you have a disability, you are being abused by a parent, someone in your family is mentally ill or addicted to alcohol or drugs.

Have I covered all of the ways in which life can kind of suck when you are young? Probably not, it's a long list. The very most important thing I can say to you is this - It doesn't have to last. No matter how powerless you may feel at this moment, you can get the hell out of your situation. It may not happen right away and yes it will be hard, maybe for a long time, but if you don't give up, you can get out of the place you're in - physically or metaphorically - and life will be better.

Here is the first step:
Learn as much as you can. Didn't know what the word "metaphorically" meant in that last sentence? Then look it up. Obviously you have access to the internet if you are reading this. Go to there's a free dictionary on line. Join your public library, it's free, and read as many books as you can. Not a big reader? The Open University has free podcasts (they also have free ebooks). Get as much education as you can. If you drop out of high school for some reason, get a GED and then go to college. DON'T go hugely into debt to do it. If you can't get a scholarship to a four-year school, go o a community college. If college isn't your thing, go to a trade school, get an apprenticeship, get an internship. LEARN. You will never in your life meet a person who says,

"You know, one of my regrets in life is I wish I had remained more ignorant."

and here is the second ...

Don't let anyone tell you that you can't, not even yourself. Too often people internalize those voices they hear growing up,

"Who do you think you are? No one from this town/ your age/ with your disability .... "

Just stop it! Maybe they didn't, but here is what I told people when they said no American had ever won a world championships in judo,

"Someone's got to be the first, why not me?"

My friend, Dr. Erich Longie, was the first enrolled member of the Spirit Lake Dakota to earn a doctorate. More often, the thing you are thinking about doing you won't be the first.  Other people who are no smarter or more talented than you have done it. Maybe you want to be a veterinarian, open a restaurant, become a stuntwoman  - whatever. The job exists. People do it. Why not you ?

If you catch yourself saying,

"Who am I to get this contract? I've never been a stunt person/ catered an event/ created a commercial website before ...

Stop it! Everyone in the world who has that job or business had a first day. Almost everyone had difficult days. Start telling yourself you'll do fine. Then work toward making that true ... and that's my next post.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for you sharing Annmarie. I'm not going to argue but to ask if a person only seriously start their sport like judo at 22 (orange belt), can achieve world class level? Have you seen one? Because my coach said it's impossible for me to make it. I know it's a stupid question because everyday people ask something like this but I just want to make a wise choice.

Luckily, i have a degree so you don't have to worry my academy.
Thank you for you sharing again.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

I have seen a couple of college football players switch to judo and win national championships. However 1. They were outstanding athletes already 2) they were heavyweights 3) judo in the US is not all that competitive

Arshad Amin said...

Honestly I was really feeling down prior to reading this post, I almost had given up, but reading this post, now I believe I can do it. Thank you so much Doc :)

Anonymous said...

Great post. I'll add MIT Open CourseWare to the online resources you mentioned . Real courses from MIT profs - lectures, notes, exams, the whole kit-n-kaboodle. I'm learning some physics and calculus in my spare time. :-)

Dr. AnnMaria said...

The MIT resources are cool, I agree.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your posts. I'm going to mindfully practice music.