December 23, 2008

Mark Up Your Dictionary in Red

Today I ran across a blog post about Cliff Young who won an endurance race in Australia. The story of his approach, his attitude is amazing -- not only because he tried and succeeded, but in the sweetness of his can-do attitude.

It gave me the warm fuzzies for another reason. It made me think of my mom and how she raised my brothers and I. She was a very determined single woman. Her philosophy was "nothing is impossible", it was the way we lived. She never really explained this idea to me, rather it was just something understood in our household. It was always a given that if you work hard and have determination you can achieve your dreams, even if they seem outlandish.

I believe the reason she successfully instilled these ideals into us is because they were part of the fabric of our every day lives. My mother is NOT a motivational speaker. She's a noisy, energetic hurricane of a woman. You know when a storm is coming you can feel the atmosphere around you change? That's what it's like when my mom comes into the room. Internal barometers start spinning like crazy. When she leaves people often say, "What was that? What just happened?" So, her influence is not by what she says, but what she does and how she lives.

The only time I ever heard her refer to her philosophy of life it out loud was once I overhead her side of a conversation in which she said, "Don't tell ME what I CAN and CAN'T do. Don't try to limit my beliefs." (At that time I didn't listen further. I was just happy it wasn't me she was talking to.)

As kids whenever we said we wanted to do something she was always enthusiastic and would encourage us no matter how weird or crazy our ideas. Some things worked, some things didn't, but we always learned from the adventures and sometimes the failing is as valuable as the succeeding.

I feel so blessed that she raised me the way she did because all my life it never occurred to me to have doubts. It was never about "can I do this" but always about "HOW can I do this". It's a fabulous gift she has given me, one I hope I can pass on to my kids.

Once I had some clients in my office and they brought their young son in. He was probably around 7 or 8. He proclaimed to me that his intention was to become a rodeo star and champion bull rider. His parents immediately started explaining all the ways it wasn't going to work out and he'd respond to them with all the ways it COULD work out. Exasperated, they looked at me and his mother says, "Tell him what a bad idea this is."

Well, that's a pickle, isn't it? I sat there for a very awkward moment and tried to find the right balance between making my clients happy and doing what I considered the right thing. Finally I said, "It's great to have a dream. I say go for it, but just be sure you have really good insurance."

Okay, so I'm not a motivational speaker either. But for heaven's sake, why dash a kids dreams to the rocks when chances are he's going to change his mind 312 times between now and the time he's a grownup anyway? Why train him to accept failure before he tries? Why teach him pessimism? Some days I wish it were legal to slap people. Unless I'm the people. (Somedays I think I am the people.)

We live in a culture of negativity. It's an easy and seductive trap to fall into fueled by the media. Let's just sit this one out. Go get your dictionary right now and with a big red marker draw a circle and a slash through the word "impossible". Let's re-adopt the spirit of our forefathers who (just IMAGINE this!) came across the country on boats with little food and no place to live and made a whole country. Now THAT'S a crazy idea, but look how well it worked out.

So, now that your dictionary is all fixed up tell me what you'd like to accomplish that might seem impossible.


  1. Nice one. Your mum sounds fantastic - at a distance that it.

    I preserve my sense of achievement by aiming very low! Not an approach I recommend, by the way.

  2. She has her scary moments, believe me. I am fortunate in that she doesn't read my blogs, so I can say stuff about her whenever I want. It's okay though because actually I tease her in front of her front as well as behind her back. :)

    As far as aiming low... that's one way to do it! I bet it's not true though. Ha! I'm on to you.


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