BY Dave Barrs
How a racehorse can help you find the champion in you?
In our last blog, we mentioned obvious pointers to greatness in prodigies like Mozart, Picasso and Tiger Woods. But for many of us the clues are not as compelling.
The unlikely story of a racehorse in the 1930s might inspire you.
In 1938 an odd horse captured the attention of America. It received more press than FDR, Hitler or Mussolini. Seabiscuit was an unlikely champion. He was a short, knobby-kneed, crooked legged, mean, neurotic beast with a mediocre record. He is the subject of Laura Hillenbrand’s book Seabiscuit: An American Legend and the 2003 movie Seabiscuit
Something amazing happened. A quirky, trainer named Tom Smith convinced his boss, Charles Howard to buy the horse for a small sum. If Howard had not purchased the horse, it could have easily been sold to a depression-era butcher for meat! Snobby journalists from the Northeast looked down on horses raised in the West. Charles Howard would have never given Seabiscuit a second look. But Tom Smith saw something. And they teamed up with jockey Red Pollard who was down on his luck and looking for work.
Beneath the exterior, one man saw greatness: a winning spirit inside a gangly horse with an almost hidden prowess, that once freed up, even taunted other horses.
Can you relate to this story? Maybe you don’t look like or feel like a champion. Maybe the Charles Howards of the world have overlooked you and you’ve never met your Tom Smith. No one has told you that you are amazing. Or maybe you feel like the only people who would invest in you are guys down on their luck. The last kid to be picked for kickball. The last girl to be asked to dance. The guy too shy to even ask. The invisible student.
There is hope for you.
Along the thryver journey of personal development and career development, you will discover that beneath the surface lies skill, motivation and potential. Begin the process of teasing it out. Discover. Process results with friends or mentors. Try things out. Be patient. Begin to build a vision.
Like Seabiscuit, sometimes we aren’t able to articulate our inner strengths. It takes coaching from others to tease it out.
You already are great. Your work and life will become great when you do what is inside of you.
Hey, you don’t want to be sold off as pot roast, right? So here are tips for “being.”
Be yourself. Stop making your first priority what the world says is cool. If you’re not suited for a particular social identity, major or job path, it will become obvious. Katy Heron wasn’t very comfortable as a Mean Girl. Spider Man never really fit in. This didn’t stop their success, but instead made it easier to reach their own fullest potential. Ambrose Bierce was journalist and author who died around 1914. As a young man, he realized that he would not become the poet he had dreamed of: “When I was in my twenties, I concluded one day that I was not a poet. It was the bitterest moment of my life.” (Yeah, I know you’re thinking, “So what’s the big deal Ambrose? Poetry?”) After he got his head around that, he went on to become a prolific journalist, editor, satirist and short story writer. He published 18 books (even some of poems.) Be who you are. It will free you up to perform.
Be quiet. The noise of the world can distract you from setting aside some quiet, still time to reflect on where you’ve come from and where you should go. Check out our blog on Quiet. Just imagine that the inner you is trying to tell you something, but the outer you is so bombarded with “noise” that you can’t hear. In our culture, it’s a crazy, scary, revealing experience to just be quiet in the quiet.
- Be open to discovery. Use tools like the thryver app, other career and interest tests and objective feedback from people who care about you. Now that I am in the autumn of my career, I understand myself so much better. And I have about 50 years worth of accomplishments that I would like to pack into the 25 or 30 productive years left. I’m not beating myself up over this, but I would like for you to become a student of yourself and your potential. The world will celebrate with you when you unleash it
Be patient. Seabiscuit was not made into a champion overnight. The trainer had to understand the strengths and challenges of the horse. You may enjoy something you’ve never even been exposed to yet. So the fact that you haven’t found it in time to declare your college major doesn’t mean that it’s not out there. Finishing school or getting through the first couple of years or levels of your career can seem like an eternity. But looking back, I see so many people who work for 20 years and then start a new, productive career. So do not let a couple years of legwork discourage you.
- Be willing to learn. Try things. Read things of interests. Try activities, clubs and organizations on campus. Ask real people about their jobs. Get out there and “expose yourself.” Your life is bigger than the life of the Internet. So seeing different classes and cultures of people, strange places, different workplaces, industries and jobs expose you to more potential. Be purposeful about seeing and doing different things and you will accidentally make a lot of discoveries about yourself.
My Dad loved me very much and he persuaded me to go to college to pursue dentistry. They were two problems with this. My wrists were not hairy enough. And he focused on a couple of my external traits and then looked at what the world says is a good job. Being a good son of a strong, persuasive man, I complied all the way through Spring of my Senior year.
I studied hard and got recommendations from the “right” people. I rehearsed the reasons I “wanted” to be a dentist. The ones my Dad had told me and the ones I heard from dentists and other pre-dental students. But they were not my reasons. Never were. I felt like an impostor. It probably showed.
As I left campus for Spring Break, I dropped the last dental school application in the mailbox. Then . . . an amazing thing happened. Hearing that application hit the bottom of the mailbox, (Yep paper. It was a long time ago.) I said to myself, “I’m not going to dental school.” And I didn’t.
I was finally honest with myself. And scared. But, hey, it only took 20 more years to figure things out. But I’ve never, ever, ever regretted that decision.
I encourage you to stay true as well. If you don’t know how, ask us or someone you admire. And do some research of your own. Just remember that like Seabiscuit, your purpose is inside of you, just waiting for a coach to drive it out. Your future is waiting for you to take charge.