My three oldest children are dealing with tough situations as they try to accomplish their goals. Each of them are faced with obstacles that are out of their control, but stand in their way of fulfilling their dreams. We continue to support them and to encourage them to continue to work hard and be true to themselves. But, it has become such a stressor that my oldest son challenged me the other night at dinner.
“When has following my heart ever paid off for me?”
This challenge was in response to a specific goal he has. Now, I’m not going to discuss the specifics of each of my children’s situations. This post isn’t meant for me to just rant about how unfair things are… It’s going to be an honest post about being a dad during times like this. Times when my kids feel life is unfair. That no matter how hard they work, others have control of their goals. Times when it feels like success will never come.
If you search for “Motivational Video” on Google you will get, “About 382,000,000 results” (just did this search). I have a playlist of about 15 of these videos. They do motivate. The videos emphasize not giving up. The person yells about how success comes after pain, or when you least expect it. Success is right around the corner, if you work hard… In one way I am going to disagree with them. And by disagreeing with them I am going to answer my son’s question.
First, the motivational videos don’t give a clear picture of success; at least not on a deeper level. Success is not around the corner… and for sure it is hardly ever a straight line! Reaching your goals is more like the path a jack rabbit takes when it is spooked. Right! Left! Hide in some grass, then dart off again!
Reaching a goal is hard (this part the motivational videos and I agree on), in part because of the path you have to take to reach it. Then the most complex aspect of success kicks in…
What you define as success changes as you travel on that path. Left! Right! Hide… change in definition of success… now what?
I have been involved in athletics and education for over 20 years. I have been a part of many athletes’ and students’ journeys.
I’ve seen goals reached in seconds, then taken away before the finish line.
Courtney was a freshman 400 runner for me at Centura. She still holds the school record at 59 seconds. In the prelims of the 400 at state she ran the fastest time to earn lane four in the finals, 59 seconds. But she would not medal. In fact for the finals of the women’s 400, lane four was empty. Courtney had broken a bone in her foot at the 200 mark in her prelim 400. Yes, you read that right. Courtney ran a 59 second 400 with a broken foot. She would return to state to earn a fourth place medal. But a goal was earned and taken away in a single race.
I’ve seen goals take miles and years to reach.
The above snapshot of Variety’s “About” page shows the name of one of their newest online video producers, James Aitken, who is a former student of mine that wanted to attend college in California to study film. He did not get accepted. James went on to the University of Nebraska to do some cool things in the media field. He graduated from UNL in 2014. He started his newest job last May, in California.
Working hard is an aspect of reaching your goals.
Another sprinter, Ryan, worked hard for three years. As a junior he was ranked third in both the 100 and 200. He worked hard for three years! He puked after practice. He strengthened his form. Ryan believed in the process… He won both races at districts to earn a spot at state.
But many times, dreams change as we grow.
The 2018 Miss Nebraska, Jessica Shultis, is another former athlete and student. Jessica placed 10th at the 2019 Miss America contest in September. She is living a dream I don’t think she had as she played basketball and ran track in high school, or as she battled cancer at the age of 19.
Now to address my son’s challenge.
You do have to work hard. That is important.
Success is not a straight line. Enjoy the journey.
Your goals will change. That is OK.
But always follow your heart as you pursue your dreams. In one way, the quality of your life is revealed in how you strive for your goals. You may succeed. You may fail. But if you follow your heart, your life will always be true.