What if your obstacles aren’t as big as they look? Jeff Charles discusses.
When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
I was never a very good wrestler, but I should have been.
I was stronger than I looked, even though I was a tall, lanky kid. I wasn’t the aggressive type. I had a tendency to underestimate myself and overestimate my opponents.
During my junior year in high school, I was competing in yet another tournament.
All of the familiar emotions were in the air. Excitement, nervousness, and anticipation. As usual, a crowd of parents, friends, and other family were in the audience. On the mats, the wrestlers were competing.
In the tournaments I competed in previously, my performance was average at best. Sometimes I did well, other times…not so much.
I had a ritual I’d follow before each match. I’d find out who my opponent was and size him up. If he looked to be bigger, stronger, or faster than me, I’d be intimidated. I knew I wouldn’t win the match…
And I was usually right.
However, if my opponent didn’t look like they were stronger or faster than me, I’d feel more confident. I knew that I would win.
When it came to these matches, I was always right.
This tournament was no different. Every opponent I faced was intimidating. I knew I couldn’t beat these opponents. They all looked so much stronger than me.
And so it went.
I lost each match until it was time to face my final opponent.
When I saw this guy, I felt a surge of optimism. At last, I had an opponent that was clearly not my equal! I was going to win!
He didn’t look very tough at all. I didn’t expect to have a hard time beating him. So when I walked out to the mat, I did so with confidence. Thinking I was going to win at least one match in that tournament made me feel much better.
We shook hands, then the match started.
I went right at him and we grappled. I quickly took him down and attempted to pin him right away. It didn’t happen. My opponent was much stronger than he looked. But I was not discouraged. I still knew I was going to win.
Even though I hadn’t been able to pin him, I came close several times. Because of this, I scored a lot of points.
The first round ended with me being far ahead on points. I figured I’d just pin him in the 2nd round. The 2nd round started and that’s exactly what happened. Halfway through round two, I managed to get him into “the cradle” (my favorite move) and I won the match.
When we got up from the match, my opponent embraced me and said it was the best match he’d ever had. I was a little puzzled because I’d clearly dominated him on the mat. But I chalked it up to him showing good sportsmanship.
So, there’s a clear moral to this story right? If you believe you can win, you will. If you believe you can’t win, you won’t.
Not so fast. The story doesn’t end here.
Shortly after my final match, the wrestlers found out how they ranked. I didn’t bother looking at the rankings because I knew I’d finished in last place. I was already humiliated enough.
However, one of my teammates had some news for me. My final opponent had won first place in the tournament.
He had beaten every single wrestler that had beaten me in that tournament.
The only defeat he suffered in that tournament was the one I gave him. Not only did I defeat him, I did so fairly easily. Emotionally, I was conflicted. I was happy that I beat the guy who nobody else could beat.
But I was also angry. I should have won that tournament. I had been beaten by wrestlers who weren’t even better than me. I should never have lost those matches.
Then I realized how much I had robbed myself because I was so afraid. I’d missed out on tremendous victories because I didn’t have enough confidence in myself. I’d probably overestimated countless numbers of opponents.
To this day, it still bothers me. How many tournaments could I have won? How many trophies could I have earned? I could have had great stories to tell my children about my high school wrestling career.
But none of those things happened, and it’s because I allowed fear to paralyze me. I allowed myself to believe my opponents were too much for me to beat. I believed my obstacles were bigger than they actually were. And the reality was that they weren’t nearly as big as I thought they were.
As much as this story pains me, it has become a defining moment in my life. Because of this, I’m not quick to let fear to keep me from doing what I need to do.
It doesn’t mean I never feel fear. It doesn’t even mean that I’ve never made mistakes because of fear.
But it no longer paralyzes me.
I’m not so easily intimidated anymore. I’ve been able to do things I never would have expected. I’ve become a father. A husband. An entrepreneur. And I know there’s so much more out there for me to discover. I have no intention of letting fear get in my way.
What About You?
Enough about me. What about you? You may have shied away from a goal because you were afraid. You might have dreams that you are neglecting because you are concerned about what will happen if you pursue them.
It happens to all of us.
We are all taught to follow the “safe” path. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t do anything crazy. And for goodness sakes, don’t dream! Come back to earth and do your job.
Because of this mentality, we go through life feeling unfulfilled. Many of us lack a sense of purpose because we’re too afraid to dream. We’re too afraid to explore who we really are because we think it will lead to something bad.
Everyone who is reading this has desires. There are passions and dreams deep inside of you that are longing to come out. But you might be afraid to entertain them.
You’re afraid that the obstacles in your way are too large. You think that you can’t succeed because you don’t have what it takes. Maybe you think that the challenges you face are too much for you. Because of this, you’re robbing yourself the way I did as a high school wrestler.
You can’t afford to believe these things. You can’t afford to think your challenges are insurmountable. Why? Because they probably aren’t. And you could be missing something huge in your life because you’re too afraid to take action.
What if your obstacles aren’t as big as they look?
Maybe it’s time for you to act, even if you’re afraid. Don’t make the mistake I made. Look your fear right in its face and take that step.
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