I recently saw a delightful movie, “One Chance”, about a Brit, Paul Potts, who won a talent show in the early 2000’s. It’s a feel-good movie about a real person who loved to sing as a child. Growing up in Wales, he was constantly bullied and harassed by the other kids, but it didn’t deter him from singing. He struggled with misfortune and disappointment. But at the end of the day, he took a big risk and won the big prize. It’s a story about an “everyman” who doesn’t let go of his dream. Watch the movie and see the YouTube videos about him. It’s a heartwarming story.
What struck me about Mr. Potts wasn’t his ultimate good fortune, after years of frustration. It was his will and determination to do what he loved. He never stopped singing, when he was bullied by other children and even when he gave up hope that he might be able to make it a career. He stuck with his passion.
Some of us are able to achieve our goals through a combination of good luck and hard work. I grew up in an educated, middle-class family. My parents were able to pay for my college and help with graduate school too. They supported my dream to become a clinical psychologist over the course of many years. I was a naturally good student, and so school wasn't particularly difficult for me. So getting my degree didn’t require much grit on my part.
I am very grateful to my parents and others who helped me along me along the way. But, I especially admire the Paul Potts of the world—they have to struggle against adversity, with little help. Their achievement, because of the greater effort they have to employ, is even more noteworthy.
My most challenging personal achievement was earning my black belt in Aikido. Without any physical agility or talent, my black belt path required long hours, many setbacks, and painfully slow progress. Without any natural ability, I struggled with feeling awkward for years. But I stuck with it because I loved it. And I enjoyed the challenge of mastering something that was so hard for me.
So what does Mr. Potts teach us?
Remember the tortoise and the hare? If you have a goal, be patient, and don’t give up. Put one foot in front of the other. The main thing is to finish—not necessarily to get an A, be the best, or become famous! Many adults train to complete a marathon, just to prove to themselves that they can do it. They don’t care about their time—they are just overjoyed to cross the finish line.
Enlist support from others.
My wife and kids encouraged me during my black belt quest, even when I was discouraged. Despite his father’s lack of support, Paul Potts mom encouraged Paul to pursue his dream. Whatever your goal, find someone to be your cheerleader.
Set your mind to do it.
Setting your intention to do something at the beginning is important. Turn that intention into an affirmation (e.g. “I am going to earn my black belt!”), write it on a 3X5 card and put on your bathroom mirror. When you wake up in the morning and when you go to sleep at night, you will be reminded of your goal.
When you fall off the horse, dust yourself off, and get back on it.
I have lost and gained a 1000 pounds on my quest to reach a healthier weight. I have tried many strategies. But if and when I do put back on weight that I’ve lost—I readjust my approach with what I learned. And then I forge ahead once again, not letting my disappointment stop me from my quest. When we fall off the horse, we learn something that we can use on the next leg of our journey.