The other day I was chatting on the phone with a friend. Per our routine, we caught each other up on the week’s events. How was work today? Good. What’d you eat today? Everything. How’s the weather on your side? Still hot? I’m sure that if a bug landed on me right now, it would drown from how much I’m sweating. The conversation began to feel monotonous and repetitive. But just before I could bring up the weird bumpy rash on the back of my knee, a rash WebMD has me convinced will result in amputation, he interrupted. Very seriously he said, “I have to talk to you about something.” Immediately the dynamic shifted from nonchalant and unconcerned, to concerned and chalant. Or whatever the antonym of nonchalant is; chalant is definitely not a word. After a second of silence, he says, “I believe that you were destined for something big and grand. You have the personality, drive, and capabilities. But I think what’s hindering you is courage and confidence. I know you’re cautious about everything you do, but it almost feels like you’re dragging your feet a little. It’s like being given an appetizer that tasted ridiculously amazing, and then waiting an hour for your main course. Catch my drift?” I’m not sure if he heard me say goodbye, but I have no doubt the abrupt clicking sound made my message clear. I was done with this conversation.
Now I know what you’re thinking, lord does that analogy need some work. To which I will add, yes! Yes it does. But despite his lack of creative zest, I understood what he was saying. Like a piece of wood being pulled atop the surface of this sea we call life, a slave to the ever changing tides, I caught his drift. It is for that reason I found myself no longer able to communicate. Unknowingly, he touched upon something I’ve been struggling with my entire life. Insecurity, confidence, and lack thereof have always been, as you may have guessed, somewhat sensitive issues for me. His words brought to surface feelings I’ve been trying to suppress for years. His drift was no longer just a drift. It was a growing tidal wave of emotion and, whether I wanted to or not, I was riding it.
After having what some may call an “emotional breakdown” and taking the time to understand why his words affected me so drastically, I became self-aware. I realized there are two very different parts of me controlling every decision I make. The confident ME is the one people often see. He is the social butterfly. He is so sure of himself. He knows that anything is possible. Believing if he really wanted to, and if he flapped his arms fast enough, he could fly. The insecure ME is the one people don’t know. He doesn’t believe he has the necessary skill or talents required for greatness. Like a contestant with a heartbreaking backstory on a nationally televised talent show, he is unsure if his praises are based off merit or if they stem from sympathy and pity. Sadly it is the insecure ME, the one who believes he is unworthy, that makes most of my decisions.
Finally aware of what I was doing to myself, I grew angry. Knowing I was the one holding myself back from striving for my dreams did not sit well with me. Just like the cinnamon challenge, the truth proved itself a spoonful too hard to swallow. I thought of all the opportunities I passed up because I didn’t think I deserved them, the countless times I’ve turned down people who wished to collaborate, and the many times I said, “No that’s not my cup of tea,” when I really wanted to say, “YES! YES PLEASE!” I was my biggest hindrance, my own worst enemy. After a few moments of wallowing in self-pity it dawned on me, I can’t be the only one who feels this way. I am sure there are thousands of people who despite being told they are, don’t feel good enough. I wondered if anyone else like me, someone riddled with insecurity, was able to succeed regardless of their shortcomings.
On December 17, 1903 Wilbur Wright made the first successful powered and sustained airplane flight as he flew for 59 seconds at 852 feet. Two years later Wilbur and his brother Orville built the first functional airplane. Not too shabby for a couple of guys who didn’t graduate from high school. As you can imagine, not all rejoiced at the strides the brothers were making in the field of aeronautics. I can see it now, townsfolk equipped with torches and pitchforks saying, “Hey you boys bes’ leave the flyin’ to the birds and the angels!” What would’ve happened if they listened to those haters? I’ll tell you what would’ve happened. We’d be leaning over the decks of steam powered boats puking our guts out as it takes an entire week to get to our desired destinations. Now I don’t know about you, but that’s going to be a hard pass for me. I saw Titanic. I know how travelling by boat ends. Thankfully the Wright Brothers pioneered the solution for that problem, and I am eternally grateful.
Now the list of “underqualified” geniuses doesn’t stop with the Wright Bros. Jane Goodall and Gregor Mendel are individuals who made great strides for the scientific communities despite not actually being scientists. World renowned primatologist Jane Goodall spent a large part of her career gaining the trust of wild chimpanzees. Regardless of the fact she had no college degree or formal scientific training, she was an integral part in understanding the primate species and how they function. Gregor Mendel was a monk who loved to garden. He was so passionate about gardening that he began to notice a few things. He noticed specific characteristics and attributes of his plants would show up in the offspring and certain ones would not. Experimenting mostly with pea plants, Mendel cross-fertilized, studied, watered, got his hands dirty, probably needed a manicure, and came up with significant findings. Today we know him as the “Father of Modern Genetics.” This peaceful and obviously patient soul (plants take like, a super long time to grow) singlehandedly discovered the basis of heredity and inherited characteristics, and I thank him for his contributions to society. Every time I take a bite of a grapple, I thank him. In case you were wondering, a grapple is an apple that tastes like a grape. Boom! Science! Thank you Mr. Mendel!
Now you may be reading this and speculating the point to my seemingly endless cluttering of words. Regardless of how cliché this will sound, I will tell you. People like Mendel, Goodall, the Wright Bros, and the countless others scattered throughout history prove that if you believe in yourself you really can accomplish amazing things. In spite of your education, training, background, etc. you can succeed. Confidence is defined as the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust. And I think it’s about time we believe and rely on someone…ourselves. It’s time that we firmly trust our passions and capacity for greatness. Although the original orator of this quote is up for debate, the significance of its message is still applicable. “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
Like you, I have my reservations and fears. But like me, I hope you’ve decided that enough is enough. It’s time to listen to the confident you. No more letting the insecure you pass up the chances you want and deserve. So I urge, no I beseech you. Go out there and do it! Fake it till you make it! Rise and Grind! Hustle & Flow, oh wait, that’s a movie. Now is the moment we all jump onboard #TEAMICANDOIT and #TEAM(Insert Name Here)! Truth be told, there will be times when you second guess yourself. Times you question your resolve. When this happens, I want you to think about David Bowie. A man who, despite only studying mime and saxophone, became a silver screen darling and rock legend. David Bowie is the finest example of following your heart. Think of where the world would be if he let critics dictate his life. The world would have no Labyrinth, no ‘Major Tom’, and no one to judge that epic walk off between Derek Zoolander and that guy Hansel, who is so hot right now. Fortunately, try as they may, no one tells David what to do. No one puts David in an invisible box to which there seems to be no escape. NO ONE I TELL YOU! Well, maybe no one but David Bowie himself. And you know what he’d do if he were put in that box? He’d pull out an invisible rope, climb out of that invisible box, smash that box with an invisible falling piano, and then take an invisible stairway to SUCCESS! So when you have those moments of doubt, you need only do three things. Sit down, take a deep breath, and ask yourself….“What would David Bowie do?”
-Educ8 Writer Ordinaire