DECEMBER 20, 2015
You're being held back

It happens all the time. It's almost a social norm. People knowingly or unknowingly saying or doing things so that they will hold another person back, and thus lead themselves to feel a false sense of confidence.

The worst part about these attacks is that they often come from the people closest to you. They can be in your friend group, or on your team, in your workplace, etc. These people that you rely on to lend a helping hand can be making it their business to do just the opposite.

Now before you go asking yourself "who can I trust" and start looking at your friends like they're enemies, know that they can very well be unknowingly doing this. They can have the best of intentions, and genuinely care about you - but they also need to protect themselves. Subconsciously, this is the #1 active protocol at all times (as it should be).

However, that does not justify this behaviour, and once a person becomes conscious of it, they cannot be excused for such selfishness. But until then, think of them as fragile human beings trying their best to stay strong by unwittingly using false means.

Now think - How often have you wanted to do something, but social convention did not approve of the action? How many times a day do we ask ourselves: Will people judge me if I do this?...or say this?... or write this? How many times can you say something so disingenuous that you lose sight of who you are, all because you try to apply by the set of social rules placed before you?

Non-conformity is not what I'm preaching. Ironically I feel like the non-conformist movement is the modern day conformist. One shouldn't do something just because it's not what others are doing. That's too forced, and is in no way genuine. What I am saying is that it is okay to be who you want to be, and to do what you want to do (within the legal parameters). It's normal to dream, and it's admirable to chase that dream with a heart full of belief, not caring about judgement. Unfortunately, when you chase a dream, these judgement obstacles present themselves. Dreams die, and people settle. It happens all the time.

The Underdogs

Everybody loves an underdog story. The notion of someone overcoming the odds captivates us, often to the point where we get emotional when we see them succeed. But how often do we think about why these stories affect us the way they do? Why is it when you watch the story of "Rudy" (a football player with no athletic ability and a boatload of passion) you feel this strong sense of inspiration?

It's all the more powerful if you become personally invested in the story. You have struggled. You haven't been blessed with benefits (be it physical, political, geographical etc.). All of these things that lie out of your control (which are oddly often the most criticized), you are lacking in. You are aware that when people look at you, they don't see talent, they don't see a serious contender, and they don't respect you. This is the moment where underdog stories begin or end. The moment where the underdog must decide - Should I believe them or not?

Look at the story of Doug Gilmour. The NHLer began his career with 1 simple goal - to survive. At 5 foot 10' 175 pounds he wasn't even chosen in his first year of draft eligibility. The following year he was reluctantly drafted in the 7th round (134th overall)by the Blues because they weren't confident that he would produce given his size. He did not play on the team that season. He was sent down to the OHL where he led the league with 70 goals, 107 assists, totalling 177 points. He also scored in 55 consecutive games.

It was no secret that Gilmour was overlooked his whole life. Given his lack of size, the old school thinking said that he couldn't make it in the NHL. Gilmour's refusal to believe the non-believers is what underdog stories are all about. At that moment, he could have chosen to believe them and go nowhere, but he decided to back himself - and see how far his potential could take him - How long he could survive with his best efforts.

I didn't know I was small. I heard it all the time, but I never looked at it that way. People that said I was too small were the ones that helped my career out. They were the ones that said I would never make it, and they're the ones that made me fight that much harder". - Doug Gilmour

He didn't ignore the voices. He heard them, and he acknowledged them. He just refused to believe them. Look at his career totals! It's a damn good thing he didn't.

450 goals and 964 assists, for 1, 414 points in the regular season.
60 goals and 128 assists for 188 points in the playoffs.
12th all time in assists.
17th all time in points.
2011 Hall of Famer

"The most important thing was me putting the uniform on for the first time and saying to all the naysayers I finally made it."

He didn't just make the league, he cemented himself in the games history forever. Gilmour's story outlines the importance of the mental game - the game we constantly play in our heads. The game we often don't think is important. The naysayers telling us we're no good. The negative voice in our head telling us 'we can't do it,' and asking 'who do you think you are?' This story is uplifting because it tells us that when others say you can't, you better know you can. Because think about it - how can someone other than you possibly know how much you want it? How can they know what you'll be willing to do to reach your goal? How can they know the hours you are willing to train? The sacrifices you are willing to make? The level of focus you will bring to each skill set you intend to obtain? Only you know. So reasonable thinking would suggest that only you may tell yourself if you can or if you can't.

"A man shows what he is by what he does with what he has," Gilmour said, recalling the quote from memory.

Show others that you 100% without a doubt believe. Then use that belief to show them where that belief can take you. Doug Gilmour is more than records and stats. He's an example of what we can all be if we refuse to believe what others say. A serious reminder that you can do it with what you were given. This process creates inspiration for those around you, and will also enhance your own personal belief system as you approach other challenging tasks ahead of you in life.

Now let's take a step back and look deeply at the negative people that bring out the negative voices in your head. When you are chasing your dream with determination and belief, it can be seen as an attack on someone who has been afraid of doing the same thing that you are doing. This individual had a dream, but was too afraid to pursue it - or they didn't have enough belief to follow through on it. This is the type of person that finds it difficult to fail in front of others for fear that they will be judged. Unfortunately, skill circuits thrive off of failure and correction. Failure is a mandatory step. The result is a power struggle. In order to find peace with their inability to chase a dream, they must inhibit you from doing the same. That way, they don't feel so bad.

Even writing this I am thinking of the people who will read this, and how they will judge me. It's tough to tell people to just not care what people think or say - one is always going to be cognoscente of the fact that people are judging them. However, their judgements don't matter when you are fully committed to your dream, and believe in what you are doing. It's not their journey. It's yours.

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." - Dr. Seuss

There are always going to be judgements and ridicule and backstabbing. The attempts to hold people back will always run rampant, and to think of a world without it would be a utopian view. But if you really want something, you can't be afraid to dream big - and with big dreams comes big judgement.

To better help you with facing the ridicule, understand where it comes from. Take being on a team for example. Envision that you are an ice hockey player who is constantly trying to get better. It is your draft year, the big year where the higher leagues will decide who will have a chance to seriously pursue a career in hockey. The Canadian Dream.

That year, you notice that there is something different about the team. It doesn't feel as much like a team as it does a bunch of individuals. Everyone is understandably trying to highlight their skill sets, but it is not so much the on ice behaviour that has broken the team comradery as it is the off ice.

In conversations, you are noticing that people are in a constant state of attack and defence trying to raise confidence with as little setback as possible. The problem lies deep within these power struggles. The foundation in which this confidence is built is unstable. It's a belief system built by a deck of cards.

Jack told Brett that he had hands of stone.
Brett told Mark that he dangled the shit out of him.
Mark told Bill that his mom was a whore (Mark is new at this)
Bill told Dave that he has no finish.
Dave told Greg that he's soft.

Though at first it felt like playful banter, players went home with these thoughts in the back of their heads.

"Do I have bad hands?"
"Am I bad at defense?"
"Is my mom that single, lonely, and desperate?"
"Do I lack a scoring touch?"
"Am I a gigantic pussy?"

Further, you notice everyone talking behind each other's backs.

Although on the surface this is typical hockey banter (and granted, a lot of the time it is), sometimes these little comments have the intentions of bringing another person down. How often has a "harmless comment" like this stayed in your head long enough to question whether or not it is true? The vicious circle of belittling begins. The power struggles start to form false confidence, and break whatever real confidence people had. As a team, it's deflating. As individuals, no one gets better.

It's very easy to get sucked into all of this, as it is mob mentality. It is quite clear that the group dynamic often brings out a different side of a person. In one on one conversations I have found that people hold very different views than they lead on in group talk. However, by avoiding talking behind someone's back, or purposely embarrassing someone, you are doing a great many things right for your future.

1) You are not making any excuses. You accept that someone is better than you because they have worked harder at their practice, and understand that there is only one way to get better yourself.

2) You aren't holding someone else back. In the future with any relationship (parents, siblings, wife, husband, kids, friends, boss etc.) you will not try to hold someone back for your own selfish reasons. This will form healthier relationships and will lead to less fighting sparked by power struggles.

3) You will help yourself to love what you do. Staying out of the drama and focussing on what you need to do to get better will lead you to be a confident and competent force. The task will also never be associated with negative feelings this way.

4) You become the best kind of leader - you can lead by example, and raise the quality of work and relationships around you. As this type of leader, you subconsciously let those around you know that you don't have to bring others down in order to get to where you want to be. You'll show them that it's way faster to just work hard.

So ,who are the people who constantly try to get power by belittling others, and why do they do it?

These people are usually not very confident, and if they are it is not a strong confidence.
They thrive off of putting people down, and get very defensive when they are put down themselves. (The give it but can't take it hypocrisy).
They are negative people who have trouble being optimistic.

As for why they do it, it could be because by holding someone else back, they are justifying their own inability to reach potential (as discussed earlier).
However, this does not mean that these people can't be talented or haven't reached success before. These people could be very successful in their field, but don't want others to catch up so that they can remain the king pin.

The saddest part about this whole ordeal is that no one benefits. 2 promising athletes can be held back because 1 of them decided to hinder another's progress for personal gain. Look at these intentions, and understand how sickening they are. All the time and effort - the passion and the desire a person had could be squandered by 1 self-interested person.

The "go hards" are being ridiculed for trying in practice by the people who aren't willing to put in that extra effort to get better. They want to put in minimal effort and get better while you stay the same. Essentially saying "I was born better."

Skill circuits don't work that way.

Take the classic example of people who don't try during training. If they screw up, they can say "Whatever, I wasn't trying." If they succeed, they can say "I did it and I wasn't even trying" as if to let people know that they needn't put in the effort required to speed up their skill circuits.

Skill circuits still don't work that way.
You may get lucky - and highlight those lucky moments.
But luck is not consistent.
Correctly built skill circuits are.

How do these types of people get better? How do they progress in their field if they aren't willing to practice with intent?
They don't.
There are no chosen ones. There are no "born that way" phenomenon. There is deliberate hard work, and the passion and drive that fuels each training session.
At best, these "never try's" will flat line. They will however have a debilitating safety net to fall back on when someone surpasses them at a sport, which reminds them that they could be that good if they tried.

That nonsensical reasoning has become far too common when explaining talent. When someone says "Tim is better, he just doesn't try," or "Jackie is the best, she just doesn't care," it is a valueless statement. Trying is essential in progression in any skill development, and caring is a necessity when you factor in how much time and attention to detail it takes to get better at something.

These statements are potential outcomes, yet they are declared as facts.

The road to attaining a skill circuit is a slow and painful one, but the outcome is always worth it.
You have to be 100% focussed on the given task.
You must try, fail, then correct.
You have to always be working just outside of your comfort zone. Not too far though.
You have to keep your mind active, paying attention to the little details.
This is the process of myelination - otherwise known as building a skill circuit.

It takes an incredible amount of time. At times you will think you have gotten worse and ponder whether or not you have it in you to get better. There will be good and bad days - but sticking with the success formula above, you will get there.

It is difficult enough to build a skill circuit. But once you factor in the mental side of it, this task can become increasingly difficult. You could be outcaste for being the kid who tries too hard, or ridiculed for failing when you are stepping outside of your comfort zone in attempts to gain a skill circuit. As I am sure that the negative people who ignite the negative voices in your head will not soon become extinct, think of being ridiculed as a necessary step to getting better.

Take it upon yourself to look at some of the best in the world. Look at Michael Phelps, Michael Jordan, Beethoven, Pavel Datsyuk, The Beatles, Da Vinci, J.S. Bach, Mozart, Clara Hughes, Usain Bolt, Roger Federer, Tiger Woods etc. Find successful people who's careers you have followed. Then, go and find their story. Look at how they trained. Find out what they did and how they did it. Once you understand exactly how the best in the world have gotten better, you will begin to realize that no one is above practice. No one is above the process. No one was chosen for greatness. Despite the fact that certain features can enhance ones odds of becoming successful in a given field, there is no way to achieve success without constant deliberate practice (aka: hard work).

Sources that inspired this piece:
"The Talent Code" by Daniel Coyle
"Talent is Overrated" by Geoff Colvin
"The Celestine Prophecy" by James Redfield