“Spence, certainly you know the ‘women’s tee rule’ by now,” Michael yelled as I placed my ball on the tee. “Well duh, of course I know what the ‘women’s tee rule’ is.” At age 15, that was my best comeback. I didn’t know the rule, but Michael quickly made sure I did: “If you don’t hit it past the women’s tee, you’ve got to walk the rest of the hole with your pants around your ankles.” I chuckled under my breath, took an extra swing, and smacked the ball down the middle of the fairway. That was a far cry from my first day of golf practice just a few weeks prior. On that day it took me three shots to get the ball past the women’s tee box. Nobody would’ve blamed me for picking up my ball and giving up. I had taken numerous golf lessons and was trying out for one of the top high school golf teams in North Carolina. But I’m stubborn, or maybe I’m resolved. It wasn’t a year later when I was playing in golf tournaments and golf to this day remains one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon.
I took something that I couldn’t do, and what many others thought I couldn’t, and turned it into one of my favorite hobbies. Is it stubbornness? Drive? Resolve? I don’t know, but what I do know is that I’m pushing myself to do those things that on paper it would appear that I can’t do. This perspective has resulted in realizing that there are some things I probably shouldn’t pursue, like ice skating, while also developing skills that are now a major part of my life, such as golf and writing. Today I want to share some of the things that this kind of perspective has taught me recently and give you reasons to attempt great things for your life.
1. Just because people say it’s so, doesn’t mean it is. Whether influenced by established institutions, family, friends, or other means, there are just some things in life that are expected. There are certain pressures that feel so strong that to go against it brings overwhelming guilt, as if we’ve wronged someone. However, doing what is expected is often at the expense of our own happiness. I considered this when preparing to transition from a permanent job for the state government to traveling long-term and freelancing part-time. What was the result? It was THE best decision I’ve made to date.
2. Better to risk and fail than never know at all. I’ve failed – a lot. I failed the first day at golf, failed my first philosophy paper, and failed marriage. The greater the failure, the easier it would be to take less risks. However, the risks have in fact become greater. I’ve had a couple different jobs offered to me in the south over the last year, but I instead moved 2,500 miles away with a couple suitcases to a place where work wasn’t guaranteed. The result has been opportunities that I could’ve never imagined. I could have given up on writing a couple years ago when I hit a dead end, but I may have spent my entire life wondering. Instead, I paved a new road.
3. You don’t have to win for the story to be great. I believe there’s this thread that runs through our culture that you’re not a success unless you’re first. That’s probably why soccer will never take off in America. People complain about it being too slow, yet we watch with great earnestness “America’s pastime” of baseball, in which a field of 8 players watches one player throw a ball to one other player to hit it with a narrow stick. I think we just can’t handle ties. I really like the story of my life. There aren’t any accolades or trophies, save some childhood basketball and golf trophies, yet I consider myself to have lived and living a full life in which I’m giving everything. Don’t worry about winning, just let it all hang out and you’ll still have a great story. The attempt, whether it becomes an important part of your life or not, is often the best part.
4. Doing that thing which you think you can’t, may just change the course of your life. I was a philosophy major. I got a C in English and haven’t taken a single journalism or creative writing class. Despite this, I think I’m doing alright for myself. When I began to travel and use writing to support myself, I set out to do this for a limited time. 15 months later I’m writing full-time and I travel about once a month. This is now my life. A new life that was a result of attempting something that on paper didn’t seem that feasible. Well I’m making it feasible.
5. Who really likes normal and mundane? Have you ever heard about someone who was on their death bed and with their final breath muttered: “If only my life would have been more mundane.” I’m finding that life really is what we make it. The question I ask people more than anything else is: What do you want? Not what your boss, friends, or girlfriend wants, but what do you want? I’m convinced that this is one of the most important questions we can answer for ourselves because how we react to it is often the line between saying and doing.
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman
I woke up this morning and I could NOT get out of bed. It’s November 1, which is day one of National Novel Writing Month. I’ve proclaimed so proudly and loudly that I’m attempting my first book, a novel, after talking about writing one for years. I’m a doer and it was time to put the talk to rest. Yet, I could not get out of bed. I’m a philosophy major. I got a C in both semesters of English and I’ve never taken even a single lecture, let alone a single class, about fiction. The last piece of fiction I wrote was seven years ago, which was a dialogue between two rednecks in a bar. Nonetheless, I finally rolled out of bed at 10 a.m. I made a peanut butter, banana, and jelly sandwich and walked to the cafe. I opened my laptop, unchecked the box for auto-login on Tumblr and Gchat, created a playlist called In the Zone, and typed my first words: “Frozen bananas….”. I clicked play with the first notes of OneRepublic’s Good Life coming on, closed my eyes, and said to myself: “Spencer, you can do this.” You can do this.
What’s the one thing you’ve wanted to do more than any other?