In 1998, I was attempting college for the second time. I already had two years of college credits under my belt but a nasty bout of depression, hospitalizations, and drugs, both legal and illegal, derailed those efforts.
I was changing majors and schools and I decided to major in music therapy. I had already been writing, recording and performing music for about 6 years and I thought there would be a place to put those talents.
I enrolled in a voice class and walked in for my first lesson with my professor. He placed some sheet music on the piano and said, “I’d like you to sing this.”
I didn’t recognize the piece and I told him as much: “I don’t know this one and I don’t know how to read music.”
He looked at me over his glasses and said: “You’ll never be a musician if you can’t read music.”
I dropped the class the next day.
I thought of every successful musician I had ever known who couldn’t read a lick of music and if the legends were true it would have included: Michael Jackson, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and Eddie Van Halen and I thought: Who the hell is he to tell me what I can and can’t be?
But the seed was planted. Even though I would go on to write, record and perform for the next several years, I never let his words out of my mind.
That was my fault.
Beyond all of our own negative self-talk, there are the things that people around us will tell us: That we’ll never be good enough, talented enough, pretty enough, or skinny enough to meet the standard.
And once that seed is planted, we run the risk of writing that script, too. We try and take on a challenge and the voice in our head says: Remember when you failed before? You’re probably going to fail again and everything “they” said about you would be true.
Now, my life hasn’t been a smooth sail since 1998. In fact, I spent the next 8 years doing more drugs, getting into more trouble and making a pretty good mess out of my life. But I dug myself out, I got clean, I got my college degree and I started a pretty amazing business.
I’ve got two beautiful boys, an amazing wife, a life that has had more twists and turns than a labyrinth and while my success in life didn’t come through a music career, it came through what I do today as a coach.
One perspective I could have taken was that my professor was right and I’d never fulfill what I thought I could be in music despite a lack of skills. I chose to let his words fuel me and be successful in other ways and, admittedly, I believe I found the better path.
Throughout your life, you’ve likely been told what you could or could not be, what you could and could not achieve, and it’s possible that those words came from people you thought you could trust or people you thought you could respect and once the script began, you kept writing and re-writing those words into your mind.
The words I write to you today are to remind you that you have the ability to change that script, to carve success on your terms and by your definition. I’m 23 years removed from that day in my professor’s class and I’ll be damned if I’ll let the dismissive words of a disgruntled old man decide what good I deserve to have in this life.
That was on me to prove him wrong.
And it’s on you to prove those voices in your life wrong, too.