Years ago when I was a kid, I remember reading Sports Illustrated, (Crossing my fingers for a swimsuit) when I came across an article about Howard Cosell. The title of it was “I’ve won, I’ve beat them” and it talked about how Howard had risen to the top of his profession despite a number of people from all walks of life that wanted to see him fail. That phrase always stuck with me when I was a kid, and it became kind of an inspirational mantra to me when I felt like life was beating me down.
Time passed and I forgot about this comforting phrase, but a few weeks ago it came back to me. I was standing on a platform, now officially a doctor, and listening to people politely clap as I moved across the stage. Ten hard years of study and sacrifice and now I was officially a made man. I had won, I had beaten them.
But what had I won exactly? And who had I beaten? I thought back on all of those people from my life who sought to kill my dreams, or tell me I wasn’t good enough or smart enough and smiled. Far from discouraging me, those kinds of voices had provided motivation to keep on going when things were at there worst. As much as I would like to find those people and gloat for a minute, I realized they weren’t the enemy. Not really.
No what I had really beaten was the little voice in my own head, always present, judging, criticizing, telling me I didn’t deserve to live the best life that I could. Taking that voice on proved to be the toughest challenge of them all.
I believe we all have this kind of self-sabotaging voice in our heads from time to time, and it is often as persistent as it is relentless. This voice creates limiting beliefs which convince us to settle for a life that is good enough rather than one we truly desire. We convince ourselves that we are too old, or too far behind, or simply not good enough, when in reality these barriers exist exclusively in our minds. Breaking through these limiting beliefs requires we take a path completely different than the one we are acclimated to. When we deviate from the path eyebrows are raised and whispers begin. Who are we to go against the grain, and why are we rocking the boat?
What I’ve discovered however, is that until you confront these limiting beliefs, you are always going to play the game of “what if” with yourself, and this can destroy you.
So, having reached this point in my life, I’ve come to understand that all of my personal failings, all the tears, frustration, broken hearts, and floundering around in the dark. All of these things are now the fuel that will perhaps assist me in helping others break through their own limiting beliefs. What hadn’t occurred to me in my darkest days, was that these very moments would one day crystallize into a kind of wisdom that could be of some use to others. It’s a powerful responsibility.
All of this came into my head when I was watching Casablanca the other day and found myself fixated on the final scene, where Victor Lazlo tells Rick, who is now a completely transformed man, “Welcome back to the fight.” I think about this idea as it relates to my own life. At one time I was an idealist, and truly believed that the power of ideas could change the world. Somewhere along the way I’ve lost some of that, but I also believe, finally, that all of these lost ideals are starting to return. When you transform yourself you also come to realize that it’s just the beginning. There are millions of lonely and scared and tired people out there who have lost their way, just as I have, many, many times in my life. I will give them everything I can, because I’ve been there.