We all want to win. We want to be on top and show that we are the best, the brightest, the most talented in a specific area at a specific time. Winning generally feels good.
But what happens after we win? There’s a letdown, a lull, an empty feeling, and a drive to win more to get that feeling back.
That’s what we get when we have a finite focus and are looking to beat others at something. That is acceptable in a game but is hard to replicate when we look at it through the lens of life.
If we don’t have a “North Star” or some vision or purpose driving us forward we’ll always be trying to rush to get to these “feelings” of victory. We become short-sighted, we rush, we sell out, we make poor decisions in the short term that affect us dearly in the long term. Happiness is in short supply.
We have to flip that mindset. We have to believe in whatever our “North Star” is and head toward it. Not with so much of a shot clock running but knowing that we’ll always be going forward and progressing incrementally. Small steps, daily, can create amazing results in the long run.
Our decisions then become focused purely on the long game and they start to build consistency in our processes and our emotional and mental state. We know we aren’t craving for that big payoff right now but a slow gentle drip of euphoria that we garner daily from walking down the path of our purpose and living in the present moment.
If you’d like to hear the full audio version of this article on my Just Get Started Podcast click here -> The F.E.E.L Framework for Goal-setting or you can listen on any major Podcasting platform. This episode originally aired on December 24th, 2020.
Every year-end most of us take time to sit and reflect on the prior year and make an assessment of the areas we achieved in as well as the areas we came up a bit short. No judgment, just realistic truths on where we came from in order to set ourselves up for success on where we’d like to go in the future.
Oftentimes, when assessing our goals, we either completed them too quickly, not at all, or there were too many to even focus on and put the right time into them given all of the other things that come up in life.
As we sit down this year to put together our goals for 2021, I wanted to come up with a better system that would help us all create more structure around our goals and organize them in a more manageable way to be able to hit the target. I thought about the areas in my life where I always set goals as well as areas to improve that I hadn’t considered in the past that might be relevant to tie goals around.
This led me to create the F.E.E.L. Framework for Goalsetting.
Here’s how it works.
There are 4 total categories; Focus, Eliminate, Experiment, Learn, and 3 items in each category. I am trying out 3, if you’d like to try 2 or try 4 or try another number then feel free. I’d be curious to hear how it works out anyway no matter the items in each category.
Let me share more on each one.
This category will contain our big projects for the year. What are the key items we’d like to complete that are going to help us get further ahead and bring more fulfillment to our life? Based on our lifestyle and mission, these could be anything from writing a book to starting a Podcast to creating a garden, to whatever. What are some things that we’ve wanted to accomplish this past year that got pushed down the list or is a new idea that has become important we’d like to spend more time on. Also, this doesn’t necessarily have to be a goal that gets completed next year. This could be apart of a larger project that might take many years but completing the first part gets us to the next. Remember, each of these are our goals and our goals alone. Focus on what will make us happy and lead us to a more fulfilling life and that should make choosing much simpler.
As we begin to focus on new projects and things we enjoy, it’s also time to look at areas that are creating stress or strain in our life or are distractions that are taking us away from higher priorities. As we think through bad habits, distractions, bad relationships, etc, pick three items that can have a big impact on improving our overall happiness. If we remove happiness blockers while adding items that make us happy in these other categories we will be able to walk out of next year in a better frame of mind and attitude for the future. Examples of things to eliminate like biting our nails, excessive Social Media/TV, sugary foods, negative friend, procrastination, etc. These are just a few and as we consider our own situations there will be some that pop to mind that we can honestly say removing would be such a huge stress reliever for us.
I’m a firm believer that we should always be trying to acquire new skills that are related to a curiosity we have or tied to something that might help us achieve our goals in the future. Sometimes, these might be new hobbies we’ve wondered about and would like to experiment with. There is no right or wrong in these categories and the parameters are to help each and every one of us put together a sound list. We can certainly go, rogue, if we feel it’s in our best interest. Experimenting (or trying) new things is always exciting but it can also come with fear, anxiety, and doubt when entering a new arena we might not have ventured into. That is part of the fun of this because it’s supposed to help us get out of our comfort zone and create new opportunities and experiences in our life. Examples of this might be learning the guitar, doing Improv, learning Karate, starting a Podcast, taking up golf, etc. Notice that we put “starting a Podcast” in both the Focus and Experiment categories. This was done to show that based on each of our situations, one of us may have Starting a Podcast as a big project while someone else may want to try it out without it being tied to a larger project-oriented goal of theirs. Everyone will have different initiatives and drivers in their life. Choose what is best for you.
Different than the Experiment category, the Learn category is geared towards topics that we are curious about, passionate about, or would like to get a better understanding of. This is not so much about acquiring a new skill but to acquire deep knowledge of a subject versus “headline reading” or doing a cursory search of a few articles. What are some areas we’ve wanted to learn about more in depth over the years that we haven’t invested the time in? Writing it down and making it an item of focus for next year might be the catalyst we need to put more effort into that learning process. Examples could be to learn about nutrition or more specifically gut health, learn about Mars, understand our political system, learn about Stoicism, etc. The topics are vast and the most important thing is what each of us is excited to spend time learning about through books, podcasts, programming, etc.
So that’s the Framework!
Organizing our goals into a more structured framework will help us create more actionable and repeatable goals that last far longer than the “new year resolution smell” that wears off weeks into the new year.
I hope we are all able to create goals that mirror our mission in life whether focusing on big projects, eliminating the bad stuff, experimenting with new skills, or learning more insight about topics that interest us. We need to hold ourselves accountable in setting time aside for these important items and not be afraid to adapt or change them as we see fit throughout the year. This is supposed to be a fun and motivating process so we need to make sure we keep a positive and optimistic mindset as we go through the year.
If you get stuck, remember this age-old quote; “Before you quit, remember why you started.”
Happy new year everyone!
F.E.E.L. Framework for Goal-SettingBrian Ondrako2021-03-19T10:42:23-04:00
Discovering the power behind sleep has been one of the most important findings of my life and I wanted to share a brief breakdown of some of the things I’ve learned in recent years and how they have impacted my overall daily performance.
Back a few years ago I would sometimes struggle with getting a full night’s rest. I’d either take to long to fall asleep, wake up during the night, or not get enough rest and feel horrible the next day. I uncovered that when I get a great night’s rest I normally have a ton of energy the next day but I didn’t know where the inconsistencies were coming from. Around this time I started to add meditation to my life and found that I liked doing it more in the evening before bed as that helped me wind down and relax. All of a sudden, my sleep quality improved. I was hooked on learning and discovering more.
Shortly after, I came across the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast episode with Dr. Matthew Walker who wrote the book “Why We Sleep” and is a world-renowned sleep expert. I started to implement a few of his recommendations but it was only after purchasing his book and fully grasping all of the reasons we sleep poorly that I was able to form a new bedtime routine.
I’ve kept it simple.
I try to go to sleep around 10-10:30 pm every night
I turn off all devices
I read a book for 20-30 minutes once in bed
I meditate, sometimes, if my brain is very active that day
I try to lower my body temperature by making the A/C lower or removing blankets (might even be a shower prior to reading)
I shut off the lights and calm my mind
Some of the keys I’ve added to this routine like going to bed at the same time each night and trying to remove devices 30-minutes prior are paramount to gearing your body up for sleep and building consistent routines into this practice. By adding this routine into my life I feel more energized in the morning and I’ve had a lot easier time falling to sleep at night. Nothing is worse than laying in bed for an hour or two and trying to fall asleep and typically those nights happen when I am off a routine like where I might be out late, had a drink, got right into bed after doing work on the computer, etc. Being mindful of the things that prevent me from a good night’s rest has been beneficial to making the right choice most of the time and setting myself up for success with my sleep.
Again, I highly recommend Dr. Walker’s book if you are interested to learn more about sleep and sleep patterns and are trying to improve your overall health and well-being. Here’s a link to find it on Amazon: “Why We Sleep” by Dr. Matthew Walker
If you’d like to hear the full audio version on this topic I recorded a One Mic Session on my Just Get Started Podcast. Click here to go to Apple Podcasts-> Benefits of a Bedtime Routine or you can listen on any major Podcasting platform. This episode originally aired on October 22nd, 2020.
Benefits of a Bedtime RoutineBrian Ondrako2021-03-19T10:41:49-04:00
Month 5 of my Dozen Months of Discovery is finishing up today and my challenge for this month was to write one blog article a day for the entire month of May, 31 days to be exact. As I write this post, this will be my final one of the month and I thought to share a few things I’ve learned throughout the month.
There are many people who write blog posts daily and have for years, for them this achievement is fairly pedestrian. I was originally going to learn the keyboard for this month but after a conversation in April with a friend and talking about sharing more of my message online, it became clear that a challenge like this would be good for me. I haven’t been consistent sharing my voice online besides my Podcast, which is mostly geared toward guest interviews. The written word is still very important on the internet and since I hadn’t blogged consistently in the past couple of years (5-10 posts a year), I wanted to challenge myself to get into a headspace where I can articulate my ideas into text and have to think through things more slowly versus just spitting off thoughts in my head while recording an audio Podcast.
With that, here are a few things I took away from the month:
Consistency is still the most important
This word has continued to pop up every month of the Dozen Months of Discovery and is a constant message shared with guests on the Just Get Started Podcast. Doing something once or twice is nice but putting the time and energy in to continually accomplish something takes more than just momentum; it takes discipline, prioritization, and grit. Whether it is a week, month, or longer or a different interval of time (launching a Podcast episode weekly), being focused on never missing this helps build the foundation to future success. One of the most glaring differences between anyone who achieved anything is putting in the work over an extended period of time. That has to be part of the equation.
You get better by practicing
Different than consistency, simply putting time into practicing something you are not great at improves that overall skill but it might help build others as well. For instance, I am not a great writer by any stretch but making a point to write every day helped improve my sentence structure, grammar, messaging, and most importantly my creativity. My writing has improved, even if just incrementally, but my creativity and observations flying around in my head were able to be articulated in a different way by making myself have to go through this daily practice. So keep practicing areas you are weak at. You don’t need to practice all of your weaknesses but weaknesses that might be essential to your overall growth, like writing, was something important for me to focus on.
Prioritize & Strategize
I’ve discussed the importance of prioritization before and when you have a challenge like this or anything that is important at the given time you have to make sure you understand where it falls on the priority list. It doesn’t have to be #1 but if this goal, however long, is important then you need to make sure it’s a priority or it’ll fall off early on when other “cool” things pop up and you’ll lose steam. Secondly, once you’ve recognized your priorities and have them listed, you need to strategize how you are going to fit them in during the day. Some days, I wrote my blog articles first thing in the morning while others I wrote right before bed at night. There are always a lot of balls to juggle each day and if you can think through what you’d like to get accomplished and the time it might take then you can make a simple to-do list to get these things done and block out the right time to do them.
Just Finish It
Everything prior is all leading up to the big takeaway, sometimes you just have to muster up the intestinal fortitude to get through “it” and finish. Some days get away from you and you might be tired but keeping your mind focused that you must keep the streak going can be enough to push you to the finish line. Remember, we all have bad days and we all have days that feel subpar but one of the most rewarding things you can do is finish whatever you had planned even when your tank is on “E”. That energy can propel you for multiple days going forward and be just the thing to pull out of your memory bank the next time you come across a tough timeline or situation and remind yourself that you’ve been here before and you’ve finished the race.
I look back at the past 31 days and it’s cool to see the great content I’ve put together, especially an 8-part series on a sales topic I had thought about writing for a year. Using this month as a motivator, I was able to complete those articles and will now be putting those together along with other content for a new Sales eBook in the coming months. These 31 blog posts may do nothing besides additional content sitting on my website but I take away the fact that I completed another challenge (5 out of 5!) in my Dozen Months of Discovery and can use those experiences for future personal and professional goals I have going forward. Sometimes putting a timeline and line in the sand can be helpful and if you struggle to achieve certain goals you’ve had in the past then maybe this is the time to put that time constraint around it.
Every opportunity is a chance to learn and grow and I hope you’ve continued to do that for yourself this year and will set a new bar for yourself next time with the aspirations of exceeding your expectations once again.
I had a chance to get back out to Umstead Park today with my son to go for a nice trail walk and enjoy some of the beauty nature has to offer. As we were about halfway through the walk he started to ask the age-old question, “Are we there yet”, which prompted me to share some insight about life which I’ll share here.
The trail is a metaphor for life and the only thing certain is there is a beginning and there is an end.
We all start out the same way, through birth, although everyone’s trail looks different.
My perspective on the trail and the difficulty in certain spots is based on my experiences in life up to this point. I might be able to easily navigate certain terrain more easily because I have come upon similar things before and can use those memories to help me get through. There will inevitably be spots though where I need to pause and consider a plan of how to get to the next step; which rock should I step on to propel me forward, should I jump or take a long step, is there any spot that looks slick. All of these types of things come at us at different speeds and at different times, too. You have to be ready to seize all of the opportunities when they are presented to you and make the correct calculation and best decision with the information you have to go in the right direction.
My son has a different perspective. For starters, he is much shorter than me so his view on the world is already different. Everything looks bigger and scarier and his footing is a little unsteady because of the surface area of the roots and rocks. It’s not harder, it’s just different. But he also doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. The things that I am looking out for, right or wrong, may not be things that he even considers and that can work in his favor, too. There is also a lot more fear of the unknown because he hasn’t seen as many paths as I have and hasn’t climbed as many hills so his mind isn’t callused as much as mine is. That will come in time and he’ll have to endure these when they come upon him.
That’s why support systems and having people you trust are so important to get through life. We all need mentors and guides at various times and those lessons taught (like Yoda on Luke’s back during Jedi training) will come in handy as we are on our own and have to make decisions in real-time. You can walk the trail of life alone and maybe do just fine but it gets lonely and dark and depressing that way. Finding purpose is a lot harder.
You won’t always know if this path will lead to the right spot but if you continue to evaluate the terrain coming ahead you can try to get back on course if you happen to veer. So this hits another parallel, what happens when you get way off course?
We all get deep into situations we shouldn’t have whether it is a poor career choice, poor health, or a poor financial situation like when I was in $18,000 of credit card debt. That sucked. I couldn’t believe I got myself in that big hole on top of the car payment and student loans that needed to be paid off. Not to mention the other bills that had to be paid each month.
But I had a choice.
I could continue to go down that path even though I had a feeling of where that was going to lead me; more stress, more anxiety, more frustration, less happiness, or I could alter course and use my judgment and newfound experiences to lead me in a better direction.
It wasn’t going to be easy and it wasn’t going to be quick but for me to get back on level ground I had to keep chopping away in small increments. I had to choose that new path every day. In order to tackle newer challenges that were important to me then I had to make the sacrifices in the short term to help me out in the long run. Eight years later, I was completely debt-free, over 50k paid off, and I felt back on track to conquer new adventures.
And so that’s the moral here, as I told my son, the trail is the fun part and not the destination. Oh, you’ll certainly get somewhere someday but what stories are you going to be able to tell when you get there and what level of pride will you have that you navigated tough terrain and not only achieved your goals but worn the path just a little bit more to help people that are coming behind you.
That’s what I wanted him to learn and I hope it’s a great lesson for you reading this today.
Enjoy the peaks and valleys because they are inevitable.
Stop and smell the roses and don’t be in such a hurry to get somewhere.
Help others by being a guide and marking the trail with your experiences.
Don’t let fear guide you on your path but the belief in yourself that ultimately you know the direction if you just trust your own judgment.
Good luck as you navigate your own trail and hope to run into you at some point on the journey!
We all deal with stress in our own way and I’ve found that most of the “dealing” is rooted in childhood behaviors and situations that are not going away any time soon. There is hope though that you can change those behaviors and become a person who can deal with stress much better or whatever challenges you’d like to overcome.
I got to thinking about this with a work situation today when I was trying to get some information to a potential client and was waiting on others to finish their side of it before I could send it over.
In the past, I’d get anxious and be stressed out if things were taking a bit too long. I’d be checking emails or refreshing salesforce or whatever to help me cope and feel like I was at least checking and would be ready to pounce when needed. This was rooted in a lot of childhood issues I dealt with around wanting to make everything perfect because I was always fearful of being judged and not being good enough. I was always someone to go above and beyond in many situations especially when it was with people I didn’t know because of this need to make a good impression. Not a bad thing, I guess, but I’d get stressed and worry a lot. As I got older, this worry continued to transpire into my work and always having that fear of judgment in the back of my mind I’d bend over backward to get things done so quickly.
I still like to try and get things done quickly, that’s just how my personality is and I have a hard time sitting around when things aren’t complete. However, I recognized that it didn’t make any difference for (insert a given task) to be done 2 days earlier, for example, and therefore I became much better at prioritizing and staying patient.
What I have come to understand is that I need to prioritize very quickly the tasks coming across my desk and make lists / time stamps on when these need to be accomplished. If urgent, then let’s get it done but if not then don’t fret so much if it’s sitting there to do in a couple of days. This is where the patience comes in. One of my best traits I’ve learned as an adult and it transfers to many areas especially when dealing with stress and getting things done. It wasn’t always this way but as I prioritize things more clearly I don’t let my mind get cluttered anymore with focusing on it and I move on to the next important item.
The big step to make all of this possible was to address those feelings as a kid that I had to please others and look good in their eyes or I wouldn’t be worthy enough. Although I am continually working on this, I’ve all but conquered that tall mountain. My self-confidence is at a high level and I’ve come to grips that I’m not perfect and will never be. I’ve realized that if I am true to myself and the others around me that’s all that matters and I can hold my head high that I am living the life I want. Trust me, this took many years to work through and it’s a continuing process.
Here are the steps I’d go through and still do:
Sitting in thought and reflecting on my past
Have the self-awareness to recognize where I need to improve
Have the courage to make changes, slowly if necessary, to move in a better direction
Keep checking back in with myself and repeating this process to build a more solid foundation
There is no “easy” button, that’s for sure, but dealing with stress and anxiety and worry has been a big issue in the early part of my life and I made a commitment to change this, among other things. It took time and patience but I had a vision for where I wanted to go and trusted the process of getting better every day.
One last thought, I’d encourage a read of the book “Awareness” by Anthony De Mello as a starting point as it was a welcomed addition at the right time and helped a lot in these areas above.
I hope my story helps you in whatever areas you are trying to improve and please reach out if I can be a resource at all.
You can read a lot of articles and listen to many videos touting that motivation only lasts for a period of time and you have to develop the right habits to sustain consistency long term through an obsession to continue to put in the hard work. I don’t disagree at all. However, sometimes and maybe most of the time you need to be motivated to begin, and by doing that it leads to the next step. Don’t discount motivation because that burst of energy to get started down a path is extremely important to not only those beginning days but as you keep the consistency up long term.
As I sat back and thought about this more it occurred to me that some of the times when I’ve been the most motivated I was being “forced” into it. Either a challenge, deadline or similar made me have to just get started even when I might not be fully motivated to do so.
One time, in particular, came to mind and it was Senior year of High School. In one of the most favorite classes for all seniors who took it, Public Speaking was a course about getting outside your comfort zone and being able to speak up and at an audience of your peers. It was fun but very daunting especially for a lot of us introverts. Larry Hynes was our teacher and he was widely regarded as one of the best teachers in the school and knew how to keep the kids engaged throughout the semester. He knew about using a motivation to make the kids learn.
You all have probably heard the poem or parts of it at some point in your life.
Invictus by William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
Well, Mr. Hynes used this poem as both an exercise in memorization and recalling that information when you were caught off guard and at your most vulnerable. The kids didn’t take the task lightly either as this was a good chunk of your final grade to pass the class.
After handing out the assignment during the semester, Mr. Hynes would then catch the students in the weeks to follow and make them, right there, on the spot, recite the poem. He caught kids in football practice, on the bus, in the cafeteria.
He caught me in a Social Studies class. I remember being one of the last handful on his list he hadn’t gotten and the days prior I was nervous as all get out. But it made me motivated to practice as I did not want to mess up in front of whatever group I happened to be caught with. I remember getting up and standing on my desk like a scene from Dead Poet’s Society and belting out Invictus confidently and articulately. At least that is what I told myself afterward as the embarrassment of the moment started to wear off. Nonetheless, I memorized it and passed his test that day.
But here’s something really funny, the lesson lasted a lot longer than I thought it would. Years after I’d randomly be thinking about that poem or the moment and was able to recite it without hesitation. 20 years later and it’s still ingrained in my soul.
Go ahead, ask me next time you see me. I’m confident I’ll ace the test again.
So that’s my point through this whole trip down memory lane. We all want to think that motivation has to come from within, and in a way, I guess it does when we are put to the test. However, that motivation sometimes comes from others around us and that’s okay too. You may not be remembering a poem years later but using the motivation to your advantage and seizing the opportunity can give you more confidence in your abilities short term and spark the path to new abilities, lessons, and experiences that help you continue your track of personal growth.
At the end of the day, remember, “You are the Master of Your Fate and The Captain of Your Soul”.
We all are looking, at times, for a second opinion to confirm the decision we are making is the correct one. It’s hard to go with intuition exclusively on every decision and we’ve been told our entire lives to look for mentors and individuals that can help guide us to the next phase of our growth.
Mentors are vital. But there is a problem.
“Advice givers” are everywhere.
You must make sure you are seeking out the right ones.
I have started to think about this more recently because I’ve been getting out to the golf course with my son and having the opportunity to become a coach once again. I was a PGA Teaching Professional for many years and worked with golfers of all ages and skill levels. I had a certain style to me that was unique and I related to my students and was able to help them get better, not just physically but mentally. Although I left the golf industry all together several years ago, the coach in me and my knowledge of the game didn’t.
Maybe that is why it pains me when I overhear someone on the range driving giving advice to another person. I can tell very quickly by watching one swing whether they are a good enough player to even understand proper swing mechanics or sequence one needs in the golf swing. Also, the verbiage and amount of information is another tale altogether. Generally, the player they are “instructing” gets frustrated and is most likely going to have that poor thought in their head for a while leading to more harm than good.
This happens a lot in all areas of life, and we’ve all been there. We all want to seek out advice but figuring out on your own is far better than being led down the wrong path when the path is very unclear. When it comes to more difficult decisions you certainly need to have your intuition be a guide, but it’s also vital to have people that you trust and that have been down that road before share their insights to help you navigate a decision more clearly. And that is why mentorship is so important. Having a couple of mentors or coaches to lean on for critical advice can save a ton of time and money and get you in the right headspace.
That is why it’s important to choose advice wisely. But how do you do that?
I’ll share a couple of questions I like to ask myself prior to getting a mentor or seeking advice from someone I know.
Does the person giving the advice have the domain knowledge to be giving this advice?
In the time I have known them, have they been consistent in their approach and actions?
Are they available to be able to mentor me?
Do I trust them without any doubt?
Will they provide me honest constructive feedback or sugar-coat to avoid hurting feelings (look at #2 to help)
Do I walk away from conversations with them feeling confident and energized or confused and unsure?
These are some of the things I like to consider in the process.
As I said, I believe most of the decisions we make on a daily basis need no advice from anyone. We don’t have to post a question on Facebook or text, 10 friends, because the reality is that we are going to be biased and go with the decision in line with our thinking anyways. We’re human, It’s our nature.
But mentors should be pushing us to think differently and expose our “weak-minded” thoughts that plague us in decision making in order to help us grow stronger.
I believe everyone needs at least one mentor in their life at all times, sometimes more than one. I have a couple of people right now that are mentors to me and they been tremendous in their guidance. I’ve gotten lucky I guess but I’ve also used the questions above to vet them well prior to letting them into that deep relationship with me.
If you need any more guidance on this please reach out, but there are probably a few people you can already see as possible mentors in your life. Make sure they pass your sniff test, and after you’ve done a full vetting, remember to not overthink it and go with your gut if you feel they’d be a great person to lean on.
As I continue to go through this reflection period and have dipped into the memory bank of my earlier days it never dawned on me how many obstacles were in my way to grow as a person. Some of them I conquered, others it took many years to overcome, and others were sheer luck when they were removed for me, hence is the case with my older brother.
As a middle child, it was a brutal upbringing. Never feeling adequate enough as the 2nd son but certainly not new or different enough as the younger daughter. I felt stuck. I didn’t have many friends outside of school and hung out with a lot of my brothers’ friends. It’s funny now, really, but back then I looked up to him as an older brother and wanted to do the things he did. That’s pretty natural in most families and definitely wasn’t different in mine. Being only 17 months apart, we were close enough in age to play a lot of sports together and enjoy some of the same things. But we were so different it wasn’t even close. We thought similarly as we do to this day, but our actions were different which makes sense with his position as the first child and my place as the 2nd fiddle.
It was like that all the way through school. He was the cool, obnoxious, funny kid and I was, well, Nick’s brother. I played the role well and hid my feelings which most kids do and went on with it. What else was there to do.
But then my chance came to break out of the funk. A glimmer of hope to break free from the shackles of that existence. My big brother left for college.
So here I was, atop the mountain I so desperately was looking for. Finally, I took advantage. From afar you might not have noticed, but I knew there was a change. I was more outgoing, more sure of myself, and more the life of the party. See I too had quite a sense of humor, self-deprecating at times, and since I had forged my way as the “everyman”, I fit into many groups. I could hang with the athletes, spark conversations with the smart kids, and didn’t have a hard time talking to the girls (well unless it meant asking them out!). Still, some work needed to be done there.
What I noticed looking back is that I had built the tools in place to “win over” the crowds and be very likable and fit in almost anywhere.
I had learned emotional intelligence from being the quiet one and observing my surroundings.
I built my confidence slowly from working hard on my golf game and earning my own money through various jobs.
I learned empathy and compassion from hanging around with my grandparents
I learned to listen from watching a lot of interview TV from Regis and Kathie Lee, David Letterman, and Oprah.
It was only when the main obstacle was moved to the side that all of these things, that I didn’t really realize back then were strengths, came to life, and allowed me to open up as a person and spread my wings.
I think this can be a lesson for anyone out there struggling to find their own way. You may have what you need already to push forward and succeed but maybe there is that one obstacle standing in your way. Maybe it is the wrong job, wrong city, wrong group of friends, or something completely different. I got lucky that my big brother went to college, but you may have to pull back the layers a bit more to find what is holding you back.
Look at all the clues and whiteboard it if you have to but more times than not the most logical answer is probably the right one. The right answer may not be the one you want it to be but at least you have identified the problem and can take action to overcome it.
Once you get that boulder out of the way I’m confident that you too will be able to spread your wings and fly.