OGP #ThrowbackThursday: When did you begin to realize what makes you special?

As Jayson knows, I love me (LOL) some The Wire. The Corners concept is one I could talk about all day. Since it’s Throwback Thursday, I’m thinking about how this  concept became core to my outlook on life before I could recognize it for what it was. As I continue to grow, gain more perspective and become more purposeful about the direction of my life, I realize how core to my philosophy this concept has been.

When I was 8 years old, I signed up for youth football. In the days between mom signing my permission slip and the first day of practice, I revelled in visions of grandeur. I ran, not walked :-), just about everywhere I went during those days. As I ran, I saw myself juking defenders, breaking tackles and running for touchdown after touchdown… Oh yeah, I was just days away from becoming the world’s next football hero. Up to that point, everything I’d seen and heard about football told me that scoring touchdowns was the only way to go. So that’s what I was going to do.

America’s next football hero!

Then the first day of practice arrived… I could tell hilarious stories about the trial and tribulation of getting into my uniform that first day, and how, at the postseason team banquet, the coaches nicknamed me “Last One Dressed Dreakford” 🙂 — but that’s beside today’s point… What is relevant to today’s point is the rude, rude, rude awakening I got that day.

Practice started with us running until I got side cramps. Then we did calisthenics until half of the kids were literally crying in agony. Oh, the memories 🙂 LOL.. I whined a bunch, but I don’t recall actually crying ;-). Then we did skills drills. After that, the coaches started splitting us up by position. When I was asked what position I was there to play, I, of course, responded, “running back”. So they put me with the running backs… By the end of practice, I’m pretty sure I was just about last on the depth chart. If I wasn’t last, I was close to it. LMAO… Oh, the memories :-).

What gives?? Tony Dorsett didn’t do this on Monday Night Football.

Much of my first season went that way. My game uniform didn’t really need washing. LOL, you know, because it never got dirty… My second season wasn’t quite as bad. That is to say, there was hope; but I still wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire… My third season was similar. My fourth season, however, was catalytic.

At the beginning of my fourth season, which was my second season on the team for 10 and 11 year olds, something had changed. Running those laps before practice had become easy. Calisthenics hurt, but I as nowhere close to crying. When we did contact drills, I saw the guy across from me wincing, shying away from further collisions. Looking back, it was puberty that brought these changes.

Mind you, I still wasn’t super fast, and I was certainly not among the most skilled at catching or throwing a football. Accordingly, a stroke of “brilliance” (yes, I am using the term lightly :-)) hit me when everyone started breaking off into position-specific groups… Perhaps I should try something different… So I went with the tight ends and linemen. As it turned out, I made a good tight end for that system — because we never threw the football 🙂 LOL — and because I blocked well. Since I was now going to play tight end on offense, the coaches tried me out at defensive end… Bingo.

I LOVED playing defense!!!  I loved being disruptive. Shedding blocks, tackling, yelling out things like “It’s coming [i.e. they’re going to run] this way!!!” while on the field … As much as I loved defense, though, I didn’t really “get” that I was best suited to be defensive player until my mother told me so. Yep, she really did 🙂 … I was complaining about not getting to score touchdowns one day, and she interrupted me to flatly say “I don’t know why you care about catching the ball. You’re better on defense, anyway”… Eureka.

My new visions of grandeur were more like this

That triggered a whole new way of thinking. That was my first realization that what made me special was not necessarily the same things that made my friends special (… by pure coincidence, I suppose, my closest friends  happened to be among the fastest kids on the team). That was when I began to truly think for myself — prodded by mom, of course 😉 … This was my first taste of the Hedgehog Principal, though I, of course, didn’t yet recognize it as such.

  • I loved being disruptive on the football field (passion)
  • I was good at it (talent) and
  • Playing that role made me valuable to my team (value to others).

Going forward, this new tool, this parameter of self-identity, became increasingly important in my decision-making process. Of course, there were (and still are) times when I didn’t get it “right” (as in the best path for me) without adjustment.

When I was graduating high school, for example, I decided, following a 30-minute session with our guidance counselor, to major in engineering. Why? Because I was decent at math, and I preferred physical sciences to biological studies. That’s really as far as I considered it. By the beginning of my sophomore year in college, I realized mechanical engineering wasn’t what I wanted to focus on for the next several years. At the same time, I realized that I did get into doing some of the lab assignments — those assignments that involved computer programming… Skipping a whole bunch of stuff that would require separate posts :-D, I will say that I ultimately focused on software development.

  • Designing things in the abstract excited me. Being a part of the information revolution both captured my imagination and gave me great pride. (passion)
  • Advanced concepts seemed to come to me more naturally than they came to most of my peers. It became apparent that not only did I dig it; I was pretty good. (talent)
  • Once I joined the professional ranks, I was increasingly able to dictate my career direction. Taking on “bigger and better” challenges came with a steady increase in my earning power. (value to others)

There is something important here for us all… In those early days, when I got my rude awakening on the football field, there was a very real danger that I would lose confidence, that my sense of self-worth would be damaged for the long term. But I was lucky… Very early on, I was too naive to give it much thought (LOL). Then, as I became old enough to “get it”, my mother helped me to be more open-minded in searching for my what made me special, as well as what I could offer that was valued by others.

It’s not only important, it’s vital for us each to give real thought to what makes us special, to who we are, to who we want to be, and why that is… and be willing change course, if that’s what makes sense to do.

Self explanatory 😉

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