Hanging on to your dreams is hard enough, without others trying to suck them out of you.
“Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” –Mark Twain
But the problem is sometimes we stay around those who are small because it makes us feel a bit bigger. Putting yourself in with those who are better than you is intimidating, and might make you feel small at times, but helps you improve so much faster.
If you come with an open mind, a willingness to learn, a determination to be successful, and you don’t complain or argue, the truly great ones want to help you grow.
When I was in my first year of high school, my basketball coach (who was legendary in our area) gave me two options. He said I could be on the junior varsity team, play all the time and be a big star, or I could be on the varsity team (which was a perennial contender for the city and provincial championships), practice against the best players every day, get coached by him, but not get a lot of playing time.
Lots of people told me not to play varsity. They told me it would be better to get game experience, to stay with them, with people my own age.
I chose to play on the varsity team. I decided to jump in the deep end. I was the only rookie on the team, and the youngest by far.
I remember one game in particular where he put me in against a very good player, and she just schooled me (outplayed me badly). I think she smelled rookie blood and I became a target faster than chum in a shark tank. I lasted 30 seconds in that game, and there were definitely times I wondered if I had made the right choice to play varsity. There were lots of times I looked foolish.
The players were older, wiser, stronger, faster, and ’cooler’ than me. I didn’t feel like I fit in at all, being the only rookie.
But a few talented players took pity and took me under their wings, supporting me and overlooking my lack of ‘coolness’, being I was only a freshman.
An Even Bigger Pond
My coach encouraged me to go to the university to play against the university players when they were playing at lunch hours and during the summer. Talk about a fish out of water and the school of hard knocks!
But I kept coming back, despite being completely out of my league. I guess some of the players respected my determination, and once again a few looked out for me. A few tips here, some encouragement there, protecting me from bullies, actually passing me the ball on occasion…
Out Of The Cocoon
I realized when my next year rolled around how much I had gained. I was faster, stronger and more fit. Now I was a veteran, a mentor and a team leader, with experience and skills even beyond the level I was playing at.
I wish I could say I also tried to take others under my wing but I’m not sure I did a good job of that until much later in my career. I guess maybe I wasn’t quite out of the cocoon, but I was definitely morphing.
Take The Chance
Looking back, the willingness to take a chance and surround myself with people better than me, and those people willing to share their greatness and support me, made all the difference.
But I wouldn’t have found them if I would’ve stayed small. Instead I chose to surround myself with people who could see further than I could, and encouraged me that with some work, I would see what they could.
It’s not always easy to surround yourself with the right people. But sometimes the real reason we don’t is it’s safer in the small pond. There’s fewer predators, and you know where the dangers lie, but there’s also fewer opportunities to expand.
Stay away from small. Don’t feed into it and don’t encourage it.
Surround yourself with greatness and an open mind, and you can’t help it, it rubs off on you.
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