I grew up doing well in school. I finished in the top 5% of my high school class out of more than 350 students. I was in the honors program in college with a 3.9 GPA. I can assure you that very little to do with where I am at in life has anything to do with my “education” in the public school system or in college. The knowledge I have, the confidence I possess, the belief I have in myself, all comes from chasing a dream as a kid. I was obsessed with chasing my dream to play soccer at Duke University. I was after it ever since I could remember, maybe 8 or 9 years old. My parents taught me to dream. They taught me to work hard for what I wanted and they never held me back. They never tried to slow me down. They gave me full on capability to chase after what I wanted, and they encouraged me. It didn’t matter how many coaches said I wasn’t good enough to play in college. It didn’t matter how many times I failed to make certain teams. It didn’t matter how many coaches said I was too small. It didn’t matter how many times we heard “you are probably not good enough to play at Duke.” I remember one time, a coach said to me as a freshman, that I could probably only play at a low level Div 3 school. It didn’t matter. My parents told me to chase my dreams, and to keep going. I remember my parents taking me and a friend on a seven hour one day trip down to watch Duke play soccer. For three years in a row my parents took me down to North Caroline to go to Duke’s campus to play in their summer camp. My dad and I had this binder with close to 100 schools in it that we were looking at with obviously Duke being my #1 choice. The point I am making here is my parents taught me to dream, to go after them with everything I had, and that I could make it if I worked hard enough. Sure they wanted me to get good grades. Sure they wanted me to be a good kid. Sure they taught me manners and how to be respectful. But the most important thing they taught me was the power of a dream.
I understand that learning how to read and write is important. That simple math is important. I don’t remember 99% of what I did in school, but what I remember at age 24 almost 25 was all the life lessons I learned chasing my dream to play soccer at Duke. All the failures. All the adversity. But because I had a dream, how I eventually overcame that adversity. I never played soccer at Duke. Have you ever heard the saying “If you shoot for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.” That is the story of my childhood. For where I came from to play at Duke was definitely shooting for the moon. I ended up playing soccer at Notre Dame College, a top NAIA school at the time. The coach there gave me a chance. He believed in me and gave me a scholarship. I remember when I knew dreams really do come true if you work hard enough. I was riding the bus home from practice the day before the final four game my freshman year (our team finished second in the country my freshman year, one win away from being national champions). The coach that believed in me enough to give me a scholarship. After all the college coaches that said I wasn’t good enough. That said I was too small, too slow, too whatever. This coach called me to the front of the bus and said I was going to play to some extent in the final four game. He didn’t know how much or when but I was going to play. This was exciting to me because I hadn’t played a minute in the round of 32, the sweet 16, or the elite 8. The next day four hours before the game we met as a team in one of the hotel rooms to make sure we were all clear on the game plan for the game. I walked in the room and I saw on the white board my name in center midfield in the starting lineup. Immediately after that meeting I walked upstairs to my room and walked out to the balcony that overlooked the ocean, arms leaning on the rails, tears streaming down my face, thinking to myself, “dreams really do come true.” Knowing it was true that if you shoot for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land among the stars. Understanding that all the struggle I went through, all the adversity, all the times I stayed after practice to work on my skills, all the times I showed up early to get extra drills in, all the times I went out on my own for hours set up cones with a few balls to work on my skills, all the college prep camps I went to, it was all worth it. Committing my childhood to a dream was worth it. Here I am a kid from Lancaster, Ohio, not a soccer town, who was told multiple times that I wasn’t good enough to play in college, that I was too small to play at a high level, all the times I was made fun of for how hard I worked on accomplishing my dream, getting an opportunity to start in the final four, something I dreamed about my entire life.
Now being almost 25 years old, over fours years out of college, because of that experience as a kid, I have the guts and courage to go after the real dream for my life. I know that dreams really do come true when you know exactly what you want and you work tirelessly for it everyday despite what adversity you hit. That is a conviction I have because I have experienced it. I experienced it because my parents told me to dream, told me I could do it, and gave me the ability to go after it. Have I convinced you yet that the main thing we should be focused on is teaching kids how to dream and to actually chase after what they want? That maybe traditional education isn’t really the best form of education. That maybe telling kids the most important thing is to get an A in class is not right. That maybe telling kids the most important thing is for them to go to college is not right. Maybe telling kids to dream, to figure out what they want for their life, and to chase after it with everything they have, is the best education. I am passionate about helping to inspire young kids to chase their dreams. To go after what they want, because its in the process of chasing your dreams that you become the person you were created to be. Its in overcoming adversity that you understand how powerful you are. Most people shy away from adversity because they don’t know what they want. The only reason why I kept going when I was told I wasn’t good enough, after I failed to make so many teams, was because I had a burning desire, a dream to play soccer at Duke. If I didn’t know exactly what I wanted I would not have overcome that adversity. Therefore I would not be 25 years old taking chances, having the courage to chase the organic dream for my life. I hope this piece of writing makes us second guess ourselves on what we are teaching our kids.
-The Professional Encourager and Uplifter