A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle
Captain’s Log: Several years back. A strange, strange podcast experience.
Some years ago, on the Brain Hackers podcast I was asked, “when do you cry uncle? When do you recognize that you’re just not gonna achieve your grand vision? When do you stop and move on?”
Those questions hung me up. I wasn’t ready for them. It’s just not something that folks in my author-speaker space think about very much. But they’re actually good questions.
And here’s a great answer from Admiral @Scott Jones: “Don’t tell yourself no. Make them tell you no.”
The story begins when my oldest son, Luke, was finishing his second year as a scholarship baseball player at a junior college in southeast Kansas. He told me he recognized his odds of making it to “the show” were small, and that he was thinking he might be wise to accept that reality and stop pursuing an advanced baseball career.
My response was this: if you want to play in “the show” (the major leagues), keep going in that direction as long as you can, and the game will tell you when you’ve reached your limit.
Baseball, like most sports, is very good at that. It’s naturally self-selecting. Players are advanced to the next level (college ball, minor leagues, etc.) as their talents allow. The winnowing process sends the ultimate message to those who have reached the limit of their potential.
In that moment Luke was in precisely that situation. There was no need to end his advancement by an artificial and arbitrary decision to stop just because the odds were not in his favor. If he stayed with it, he would continue to advance to the absolute limit of his ability. Then, and not before, he would know what was possible. As it turned out, he won another scholarship at a D2 university, and was able to keep going for another two years.
At the end of the day Luke was not selected to play pro ball. But because he chose to keep moving, he advanced significantly beyond the junior-college level. Baseball paid for much of his secondary education, and after college he played semi-pro ball until it no longer fit his life.
Life is instructive in that way.
Here’s the thing… We don’t get to know how far we can go until the journey ends. And there are really only two places along the way we can stop by choice. One is after we cross the finish line. The other is… anywhere else.
We all come into this world with a certain potential. And living in 21st-century America means we are given more of that than literally anyone else in any other time or place in history (think medieval kings who didn’t have central heat, running water, or cable TV!). We pretty much won the birth lottery regardless of our demographic. I might offer that those born into inner-city ghettos in the U.S. may be in some ways more fortunate than children who begin lives in the slums of Mumbai. And we only go up from there. Some might suggest that as a white male born to middle-class, educated, involved parents in a decent school district in a safe neighborhood I got the Powerball. And they’d be right. And they might go on to say that the kids in Denver’s 5-Points got the scratch ticket. They’d be right about that, too.
Still… where we start is only that. I know this is obvious and oversimplified, but we all have the ability to fulfill our potential, whatever that may be. And none of us really knows what that potential holds until we begin the process of doing whatever it takes to achieve what we were put on this earth to achieve. Or we stop before we get to the goal. Those are both decisions. We get to choose.
So let’s summarize what we know so far. For entrepreneurs, or anyone engaged in any other independent goal-oriented process, the goal line is wherever we say it is. It might be a creation, like a book. A possession earned: Lamborghini Diablo, anyone? A lifestyle manifested.
Each of those goal-lines demands time and effort until it is achieved. Or we are limited by outside forces. Or we quit.
Parables about people who stop short – only just short – of the goal are easy to find. In the world of entrepreneurs, we’ve all heard the famous Napoleon Hill story of the miner who gave up 3 feet from gold. Returning to the sports analogy, H. Ross Perot observed that “most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success. They quit on the one-yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game, one foot from a winning touchdown.”
Those are clever ideas that illustrate a point. But only that. The reality is that we can never know how many more blows with the pick axe we’re gonna need to get to the mother lode. Nor do we in real life know when we’ll reach Perot’s goal line.
What we can know with certainty is whether or not we have reached our objective. Is the pallet of books in the storage unit? Is the Maserati in the garage? Do we have the second home in The Bahamas? Those are yes or no questions. The distance to go and the time before we get there are far more vague. Until we make it, we really can’t know how close to the goal we are.
That’s the challenge. So we determine to stay in the process all the way to the end.
And, sometimes, life shows us the end before we get where we want to go.
Does that realization mean we’ve “failed?” It depends on what that word means to us. My favorite declaration along those lines comes from Conor McGregor, the MMA fighter: “We win, or we learn.” Maybe we can realize, or be shown, that what we’re experiencing is not “failure” as that word is commonly understood. Rather we’re being shown that another dream would be worth pursuing. We’re not “failing.” We’re “learning.”
Ok. Then what?
I’ve written about that very question in detail here, here, and here. But I’ll reprise the short version. To figure out what we want to do after being shown a hard limit by our previous dream, we’ll want to answer these six questions:
- What do I want to do?
- What do I want to be?
- What do I want to have?
- What do I want to give?
- How do I want to spend my time?
- With whom do I want to spend my time?
Those questions answered, we then spend the necessary energy and resources to figure out how to enter the process they have revealed. Finally, we begin. And here’s the secret sauce for success: as before, we stay in the process all the way to completion.
Keep in mind that this idea applies multiple times in multiple areas of our lives. Things happen, circumstances change. We’ve already talked about it above, so I’ll leave it to your imagination to come up with the potentials of that reality. But the point is that this process is not a one-time thing. It can be useful as a general principle in many ways over a lifetime.
So I invite you to keep it handy. What we know with certainty is that challenges happen. Our job is not to fret about that understanding. Our job is to create the mindset that allows us to respond well when they do.
Our success, then, comes down to this: are we willing to do what we need to do for as long as we need to do it?
Thinking back to the podcast host, I wish I had said that at some point the journey will end. We will be stopped by outside forces beyond our control. Or we will have the house on the beach. Or we will quit.
Where, then, are you in your process? Have you decided, like Luke almost did, that it would be prudent to leave your chosen path simply because the odds are against you? That would be a shame. Wouldn’t it be better to find out what’s really possible? Let’s keep you moving until you cross the goal line or hit your natural limit.
Here’s a thought. Would it be helpful if you had someone walking alongside? There are plenty of people who would gladly join your journey. I know where they hang out. Do you need some guidance, some resource that seems hidden away? Coaches abound. I know where to find them.
Want to chat? Email or give me a call. My information is available below. I look forward to stepping into the process with you.
Thanks for reading!
Link to Mark’s book, The Symphony of Your Life
The Symphony of Your Life on YouTube
Mark graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-737s around the country, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Need some help figuring out why you’re on this planet? Want to talk about discovering your mission and purpose? Contact Mark today at 720.840.8361 to schedule a free personal consultation. He can also deliver an inspirational keynote or workshop for your organization! email: email@example.com for information.
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