2023 has been a roller coaster of a year for me. From switching jobs to having my youngest start school, life comes at you fast. For many of us, too much change is uncomfortable. We thrive on consistency and patterns of living.
Often, it's easy to do something and then later wonder, "What was the value in that?" Said another way, "Was that worth my time?" To be blunt, I had those thoughts when I first started this website. Too many posts were followed by thoughts of, "Who is even reading this?"
And then my mindset changed. Because sometimes it really doesn't matter.
People post thoughts all over the internet, and many are met with harsh criticism. It reminds me of the famous Man In The Arena speech by Theodore Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
I've always aimed to be a "doer of deeds," someone that attacks his life, as opposed to letting the chips fall where they may. It can be a frustrating existence at times because not everyone works like that. As I near my 40th birthday, I look back at lessons learned, and one in particular sticks with me.
Earlier this year, my first boss and mentor passed away. Despite having not worked together for many years, we made it a habit to talk once a quarter. When I was 23 years old, he would joke with me, "Someday, I'm going to be working for you, and you better not forget about me." I certainly didn't forget about him. In fact, I always held him up on a pedestal because he routinely emphasized: "You need to develop your own style."
At first, I had no idea what that meant. I was disciplined and driven; I wanted rules, processes, and procedures. In my head, if I practiced those, I'd be good at my job. But from the very start, he'd say things like, "Go ahead and do it that way...and you'll be like every other person in the company."
Did that mean going rogue and not following the rules? Wasn't this the guy that was supposed to keep me in line? And so I followed the rules for about a year, and I became proficient at what I was supposed to be doing. But then, like a ton of bricks, it all just hit me.
I finally had the base I needed to spread my wings a bit. I started to actually think about ways to do the work faster, smarter, and more effectively. I started to test things that many would have deemed "outrageous" or "crazy." And in that phase, I developed a style. This wasn't something that was pre-planned. It was simply revealing itself as my skills caught up to my ambition.
When I wrote my first book, he bought a copy on the day it launched and penned me a long note. In summary, it suggested that I was becoming who I was meant to be.
I get sad when I think about him, but I can't not think that I owe something to the next generation. We're all becoming something, evolving at a pace that is sometimes hard to comprehend. As we evolve, though, it can be easy to think: "I'm not a finished product yet. Therefore, I can't give back until then."
Simon Sinek recently wrote a book where he talked about "infinite business." Put another way, there will always be another deal, another buy-out, another boss. Business never stops. And while people are often whipsawed through these chains of events, it's important to keep this all in mind.
So, before you go to bed tonight, take a look in the mirror and pat yourself on the back. You're becoming somebody. Give yourself some encouragement and space to let it happen. And while it does, think about how you can influence the life of someone else. You may not be around to read an article like this one, but it really doesn't matter because you're the doer of deeds.
SK, may you rest in peace.
John Willkom is the author of Amazon best-selling basketball books: Walk-On Warrior and No Fear In The Arena. John is an avid reader, sports fan, and father to two incredible little girls.
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