A story of how my identity and perspective changed based on what I believed about myself in this talk at Abilene Christian University with my good friend Dr. Steven Moore
When I was a little kid I wanted to be Superman. Superman made an impact. He was unstoppable, invincible and incredibly powerful.
I was not.
On the contrary, I’ve always had a small frame. Skinny, scrawny, short. These were ready adjectives you could identify me with. Still can.
I didn’t want to be Superman because he was the strongest dude around, could bend iron in his hand, or was faster than a speeding bullet. I wanted to be invincible. I wanted to be immune to the physical damage of bullets or baseball bats or bullies.
Suffice to say, I understood how dangerous it is to be vulnerable. I wanted to be able to create impact, but be immune from experiencing it.
Being capable of receiving pain is a human condition. It’s one I have avoided. Yet avoiding pain is not a way to grow or succeed. Therefore, I’m changing this mindset so I can grow and win.
Most of us have a real understanding of what pain is, both physical and emotional and psychological. Avoiding pain is what we’re naturally programmed for. Yet pain is a part of the human experience, and turning off our ability to receive it can cost more than the pain itself.
Where The Mindset Change Started For Me
Best selling author and life coach Tony Robbins has made a BIG impact on a lot of people. The self-help guru is an empowering teacher worth modeling after. He talks about how every decision we make is either a pursuit of pleasure, or the avoidance of pain. His book Awaken The Giant Within details how to transform your life by changing your beliefs, words, and actions to overcome the fear of pain.
Your beliefs about yourself determine the stories you tell yourself about who you are, and what you’re capable of.
This is something you might have struggled with to from a young age. You may still be struggling with avoiding pain. Pain from someone’s harsh words, or actions, or attitudes, or something else that made you feel less than and unworthy. They became the stories you adopted on your identity.
It’s our human condition to want a few specific things intrinsically. When we come out of the womb we have within us the desire to be valued, to be found worthy, and to be loved. It’s in our DNA.
Life gives us opportunities to experience this kind of love. We have friends who lift us up, encourage us, and make us feel like we’re on top of the world.
All the while there are other people we experience who do the opposite. For one reason or another, they tear down, destroy, hurt, and cause us pain with their words and actions. Try as you might, you can’t make sense of their motivation or reason. Each of us experience negativity this at some point in our lives.
The Power Of Stories On Our Understanding Of Fear And Identity
When I first experienced the pain of rejection and unworthiness from a person, it made an imprint, a story. Imprints & stories don’t go away easily.
Imprints that are negative tend to have more staying power than those that are positive, unless we’re looking for and needing that uplifting stuff. Then it’s received differently. Something that hits you and leaves a mark has a pretty strong impact on your outlook on life and yourself.
As I’ve gotten older I realize that my defense mechanisms for dealing with pain and rejection have always been faulty. An old friend once told me when we were in college that I approached people metaphorically with my arms up in defense (like a boxer).
He said I never let anyone get close enough to know me. Keeping people away from reaching in to (potentially) cause harm.
It’s hard to build community, build trust, and gain influence with people if you don’t let them in. That vulnerability thing is something we all have to deal with. It’s hard. It hurts. It’s risky. It’s dangerous. But it might just save your life.
It saved mine. But it’s also one of the most difficult things I’ve done.
When I realized that being Superman wasn’t all that great, my heart changed. How can I be understood and valued if I can’t feel or allow others to impact me in a way that leads to feelings, good or bad?
I’ve always been a pretty emotional dude, so that whole idea of being immune to feeling is a bit off. I could never pull that off anyways.
Growth Farming Creates Maximum Impact To Change The Story
We have a choice to make in our lives everyday. What will we plant within ourselves produce fruits that others experience. What we focus on, the stories we believe, determine whether we have impact on our spheres of influence, or go ignored.
I used to plant fear in my heart, and with the stories I told myself. Fear of rejection. Fear of failure. Fear of being harmed. Fear of being beat up. Fear of being found not good enough.
Turns out that fear is what I produced. Afraid of not being received and accepted by people kept the folks I wanted to connect with from wanting to engage. So I felt even more rejected and alone. It wasn’t their fault. We create the worlds we think about. We create our reality.
I would avoid people I thought might cause me harm, physical or emotional. I’d only get so close. One day I was walking around downtown Abilene and saw this dude on the other side of the road I was going to cross.
He looked kinda tough, with tattoos and baggy pants. I judged that guy right then. I thought he might try to hurt me so I turned around and went the other way to avoid him.
That’s no way to live. I can talk openly about that now because it’s not who I am anymore. I felt a little voice in my head/heart ask me, “How long are you going to live like this? How long are you going to be a scared little boy afraid of the nonexistent monster under his bed?”
This realization led to me venturing into the amateur boxing realm to overcome that perpetual fear of being harmed. I ended up joining a boxing gym run by an Air Force coach who engrained in me transformative pieces that changed my life.
I never became a good boxer. But I did lose the fear of getting hurt. Yet I learned SO much more about life, business, and success from Coach Rivas than I ever imagined.
I also learned my calling. It’s bigger than music. It’s bigger than radio. It involves people and giving the thing I’ve wanted my whole life.
Transformation That Came From A Ring
I’ve always not been big on competition. Part of it was scary because it involved the possibility of losing (fear again). It also pitted people against each other, which has never been something I get excited about.
I’ve always enjoyed working with people to make something big happen. I’ve got a gift in being able to recognize people’s strengths, even those they might not know they have, and incorporating them into the mix to get the best out of a collaboration.
We naturally want to be around people who empower us, who make us feel bigger and stronger and able to do more than we believe we can do naturally. Think about the individuals in your life who give you that feeling.
Those people (and there’s probably only a handful of them that you know, they are uncommon folks) who give you the feeling of being able to tackle any giant just by being around them. They evoke a power that is transferred into your spirit. That’s a real superhero.
I no longer want to be Superman. I haven’t for sometime. Surprisingly, as much as I love Batman, I don’t want to be him either. I wish to have that kind of focus and dedication. But the skillset and methodology are too different than my inclinations.
I want to be Professor X. You recall him from the X-Men films, played by both Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy. In the comics, he was the founder of the X-Men and garnered an extremely loyal friendship to each of the members of the team. There’s a reason for that, and it’s not because of his mutant power.
Professor X’s real power is his ability to inspire greatness in uncommon individuals, bring them together and show them how to use their gifts to better the world. He’s a unifier. He’s a teacher. Because he believes that everyone is capable of great things if they’re just believe in themselves, they’re able to face incredible obstacles and foes.
That’s a hero worth aspiring to. That’s the kind of leader we need. That’s the kind of person who gets the best out of others, and inspires greatness.
Transformation is a process, and this is the evolution that I’m diving into. Like planting a garden, it takes time. But when the fruit is fully ripe, it will be bountiful and bless the world I’m connected with in powerful ways.
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