I coulda been a contender. I swear. I got that fight in me. I get that swelling chest and a sense of great possibility and achievement … from time to time. Super genius public intellectual. Innovative professional athlete. Paradigm shifting rockstar. It hasn’t happened though. I don’t totally know why. I know there’s a lot of confusing mixed up yucky stuff to battle out there that keeps wanting to knock a potential contender back.
Well, here’s some thoughts on being a contender. No matter your age. This is what I tell myself. Maybe it suits you, too.
In their book Thanks for the Feedback, Douglass Stone and Sheila Heen show that the problem with feedback in the workplace and in the rest of life is not how we give feedback, even though that’s how we instinctively feel about the friction and pitfalls of feedback — that we need to be better at giving it. Compliment sandwiches, and other yummy snacks. 7 to 1 ratio of positive to negative. Growth and opportunity rather than fixed character traits.
Yeah, that’s all fantastic. And real.
Oh, but. A glorious but.
You wanna be a contender?
Maybe you still can.
Stone and Heen show that what we’re actually really bad at is receiving feedback. We’re all just super insecure. Devastation is only a veneer away.
We’re dangling from threadbare hopes for glory and safety, above some kind of bottomless abyss of you-can’t-have-it-you-don’t-deserve-it. The slightest breath, even in the form of positive feedback, can cause a frightening breeze.
Steel hopes, rather than threadbare hopes, however, are not necessarily the answer. Do not steel yourself!
Instead do this kinda stuff: submit, surrender, open with compassion. Seek and work to find messages deep inside that you are lovable and you love you.
Put yourself in the ring as much as you can over and over. Take the blows with self-love and kindness, patience and the proper amount of self protection.
Your training schedule should have lots of imperfect training, down time, and progressive big night fights.
So much potentially goes into this training. Time, effort, patience, cross training, and practicing with others. And, starting small — whatever your level is — and getting more confident until you can level up.
Don’t do it alone. That’s my feedback to you now. You need help with this one. We all do. That’s how we get stronger.
Also, only wear as much armor as you really need. Find the optimal mix of vulnerability and armor. And let that change as you go to suit you.
Seek answers to the following questions: is it about you or someone or something else? What are people’s real (bizarre and / or non-conscious) motivations? Is there even a sliver of a possibility it’s not all true or relevant? Am I at peace somewhere deep inside no matter what?
As a companion to that, nurture a deep courage in your core convictions.
You can still do it.
You coulda shoulda woulda and will be a contender.
Even if it’s only in the rare and powerful ability to fully take this world.