Success Comes From Willingness

It is the end of August and the summer is almost over. Where does the time go? I realized that I haven’t written a blog post in a while, so I hope this entry will make up for lost time. It has been a whirlwind of a summer with so many “aha” moments in my life and career. So, naturally I want to share with you what I’ve learned…

For years I saw the potential in young people and I made it my mission to nurture that potential at any cost. One thing I’ve come to realize is that you can only chase potential for so long. All children, teenagers and adults have boundless potential to achieve anything they want in life. This I KNOW to be true.

But that potential must coincide with a willingness from the person to succeed. For well over a decade I’ve been chasing potential in young people because I knew they could achieve a great deal of success. I felt it was my purpose to help them realize that potential.

What I now know is that if the potential doesn’t eventually turn into willingness… stop chasing. Wow! What a thing to come out of my mouth! I never thought I’d say anything like that. So how did I come to this realization? There are a few things about the human condition that I’ve discovered…

1) Who You Spend Time With Is Who You Become. We are more effected by our environment and those we surround ourselves with than we realize. If you are surrounding yourself with friends who are lazy, unmotivated, whose only interest is to hang out and goof around then that is who you become. If you spend time with overachievers who work hard, have ambition and go for their dreams, you become more like them

2) People Naturally Crave Negativity. It is so easy to focus on things we don’t want. Take the news for example. Have you ever noticed that when there is a horrible tragedy being broadcasted you will have the tendency to watch the same news story over and over again? How many positive stories do you see on the news?

3) No One Likes Being Wrong. Succeeding means being willing to take accountability for your mistakes and sometimes to be wrong. I always say, “Mistakes are practicing for your success.” Someone unwilling to confront the errors they’ve made has no hope of growing as a person.

4) Your Value In The World Is Determined By The Size Of The Problems You Can Solve. So if you want to be seen as valuable, you need to be able to solve big problems. More importantly, those big problems should not feel big to you. So how do you do that? With the right mindset about what you believe you can achieve.

So what is the right length of time to allow willingness to arrive? I don’t think there is a definitive time frame. It is just something that requires your own awareness.

Example: I was working with a boy for over six years who was headed down a path of wrong choices – gangs, drugs, criminal activity, you name it! Why was he walking toward that path?

  • An absentee father
  • A mother who gave up on him
  • Teachers who always emphasized his faults over his strengths
  • A community filled with poverty and violence

Need I go on?

I was determined to not let him fail. At his core, he was a sweet kid who only ever wanted someone to truly care about him. He wanted to feel (like all human beings want to feel) like he mattered in the world. Unfortunately, there was so much counter-intention from his environment that told him he was worthless and he would never make it. He has chosen to be convinced of these facts. Remember, we don’t like being wrong. So in order to prove himself right he allowed all the bad things people expected from him to occur.

It was very sad for me to watch this happen. I had given him thousands of dollars in scholarships to my arts camp, set him up with a “Big Brother” to give him private drum lessons and my team personally worked with his family to help connect them with resources in their community. I pushed and pushed and nothing worked.

Why? Because there was no willingness on his part or the part of his family. They had already accepted that this was just how life was meant to be. Eventually, I had to let go and let him find his own way.

So does it mean that my efforts made no impact? No. They planted a small seed of hope that resurfaces about every six months when this young man calls our office to say hi and check in. Will it be enough to save him? I don’t know. I can only hope.

I have always been passionate about helping young people succeed. But my big summer “aha” moment is that there needs to be a willingness or some kind of exchange in order for transformation to take place. Let me be clear, it doesn’t mean you ever stop caring. I always think about the kids that I work with as my own. That is why I fight so hard for them.

The mistake I made with this boy was not that I cared for him, but that I was too invested in what I wanted for him. In order to help the largest number of people, we must be able to recognize those who are willing and those who are not.

Anytime you make a positive impact in the life of a child the world becomes just a little bit better. I believe that when children are successful the world is successful. So I guess my message here is to keep caring and trying to make a difference to those around you, but to seek out those who are willing. A person’s willingness is a key factor in their success.