Thursday, December 4, 2014

Not Even Me

In the movie, The Pursuit of Happyness, the character portrayed by Will Smith is playing basketball with his five year old son. The little boy is enjoying success while Will Smith is telling him not to pursue a career in sports. After all, he explains to the boy, I am not all that good at basketball and those kinds of talents tend to run in the family. He also expresses a common parental fear that he does not want his little boy spending all his time on a basketball court. Finally, the little boy becomes sad and discouraged. Will Smith understands he has damaged the child that he loves. As he apologizes to his boy, he delivers the speech found in the picture above, “Don’t ever let someone tell you that you can’t do something. Not even me.”

I first saw a clip from this scene imbedded in a short motivational video I was watching on Youtube. For personal reasons, it hit me hard. We all have dreams that just won’t go away. I am not talking about the uninvited daydreams that pass through our minds, like the roles we played in games when we were children. I am talking about the real, deep desires of our hearts.

Sadly, the first people who tell us we can’t do it are our parents. Sometimes they rain discouragement on our dreams for what they believe are very good reasons, and they may be right. Tens of thousands of little boys dream of careers in the National Basketball Association. Only a handful will ever play professional ball. Wouldn’t it be better to spend less time on the basketball court and more time with your homework?

Probably. And yet our hearts yearn for something more.

Teachers tell children and their parents they have a learning disability or some defect in their character that defines them as second rate. I think we all have at least one of these stories. We don’t tell these stories, at least not very often. They tend to dishonor our parents or teachers even as the telling would cause us to relieve the pain and shame that is a part of growing up. Not everybody has the raw IQ, memorization skills, and discipline necessary to make it through medical school, but should teachers be telling a child to give up his dreams?

Maybe. A case could be made that such a realistic appraisal will save the child from greater pain at some later time. And yet our hearts still yearn for something better.

We can absolutely count on the world, even our own friends, to tell us what we can’t do. Sometimes it is well intentioned and realistic. Sometimes it is just plain old jealousy. When you begin to experience success in some area of life, you will lose some of your old friends. They believe they can’t go where you are going. They know they are losing you. Out of insecurity they tell you that you can’t do it.

And yet our hearts know that with or without our old friends, we must move on.

In this business it is sometimes a temptation to tell people what they can’t do. I never want to be guilty of that sin. It is OK to advise people of a danger when pursuing a particular goal in a particular way. It is OK to suggest an alternative path that would bring them closer to their goals. But their dreams are their dreams; not my dreams. If God has given their heart a burden to achieve some particular goal, who am I to minimize their dream, or attack their faith, or person?

How does that make the world a better place?

There is one more enemy to consider in this meditation. That would be, yourself. It would be remiss if I didn’t add, “Don’t ever let someone tell you that you can’t do something. Not even you.”

I am always my own worst enemy. My fears, insecurities, desire for acceptance, tendency towards perfectionism, and a whole host of imagined devils both in my own mind and the minds of those around me have done more to limit me than the actions of the real enemies I have faced in my life.

I haven’t yet seen the movie, The Pursuit of Happyness. I have read that it is based on the true story of failing salesman making a life for himself and his son. He takes an unpaid position as an intern at an investment firm. Only one in twenty of the interns in this program will be given a full time job. In the short run this unrealistic decision results in their evection from their apartment. In the long run, the character portrayed by Will Smith becomes a Wall Street legend.

I think I am going to watch this movie, maybe buy it. If you haven’t seen the clip, here it is.

Don’t ever let someone tell you that you can’t do something.

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