4 Powerful Lessons about Growing Up and Finding Yourself
We all love to reminisce. That’s part of life. And as long as we keep moving forward, we realize how important it is to look back with laughter and happiness at the great blessings in our lives. We’re defined by what we’ve learned and the people who helped shape us into the women and men we are today. The product of who we become is a powerful sum of maturity and lessons learned.
Throughout my life, there have been huge milestones, spectacular failures, some “blah” moments and some small wins. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve paused at each interval to appreciate each moment for what it is. I make a mental note — and a written one — of what I’ve learned and how I can improve in my relationships, my performance and in my thought life.
I’m always seeking to grow in emotional intelligence and to branch out and meet new people I can learn from. I get tired of stale ideas. Maybe you know exactly what I mean. We should constantly strive to grow, challenge old assumptions and find bold, new opportunities that open our minds and bring joy to our hearts.
I want to keep becoming a better writer, I always want to love my family and friends with all my heart, and I want to touch people’s lives in a positive way. So, what about you? What are you striving for? I hope you can agree that the lessons we learn along the way leave imprints on our souls. They touch us and challenge us to become better people.
I felt these four powerful lessons that I’ve learned could have some applicability in your life. You may find some of yourself in the pages of what I’ve learned. Growing up isn’t about getting older and less fun. It’s about getting wiser, smarter, happier and more influential in our thoughts and actions. Enjoy this list!
1. You may not become the person you thought you would in high school. And that’s perfectly fine!
My wife just asked me two days ago what I dreamt of becoming when I was in high school. The absolute — highly delusional! — truth was that my dream was to play basketball in the NBA. I didn’t just occasionally dream this. I thought of it All. The. Time. At first, my dream was to play Division 1 college basketball.
Neither one of those dreams came true. Yet my dream of playing college basketball did, at the Division 3 level.
While I was a dreamer and positive thinker, I didn’t have clear goals and plans that extended outside of the basketball gym. I poured all of my energy and effort into becoming the best basketball player that I could be. I dreamt that it would pay off. After graduating high school, I then went on to have, shall we say, not exactly the most distinguished athletic career in college.
I stopped playing midway through my time in school.
At the time, it felt like a bomb had blown up in my dorm room. My whole life felt like it was in shambles because of the deep attachment I had cultivated and created with basketball. I began to question myself and beat myself up. Why didn’t I do more? Why didn’t things work out? Maybe you can sympathize and relate to an event in your own life.
When I started doing some real soul-searching seven years ago, I came to peace with the fact that I hadn’t given things my all when I was younger. At first I was ashamed. I then aimed to rectify things by pursuing my passions and putting to plan more of an hard-working outline to ensure I’d never give up or give anything less than my best EVER again.
I’ve done all these things. Giving my best in all situations is probably the thing I am most proud of.
One of the things I did plan and speak over my life was the desire to become a high school basketball coach. I achieved this goal only seven months later in the Fall. This is why I am perhaps the world’s largest proponent of, “What you speak over your life becomes your reality.” No one will ever convince me that this isn’t true.
Every time I’ve earnestly and industriously pursued this, things have worked out in my favor.
Coaching basketball became one of the smartest decisions I’ve ever made. It’s an enormous part of my DNA. The reason why is because basketball was in my blood from such a young age. Because I concentrated so much of my energy on the game during my high school years, I continue to feel that much more equipped to coach and teach the game to young people today.
But bear in mind, I didn’t just learn, practice and acquire the skill of learning basketball and teaching it. I learned about emotional intelligence, competition, planning, strategy, tactics and so much more. This education of basketball was truly an education of life. It has shaped me into the man I am today and influenced the values structure that has become a gigantic part of my life.
So much so, that I just wrote a book about it.
2. Don’t beafraid to sometimes repeat the past, as long as you don’t dwell too long in the past
“You can’t repeat the past.” — Nick Carraway
“Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can!” — Jay Gatsby, from The Great Gatsby
You’ll never be able to relive a moment that passed. But you can repeat the emotions and feelings of your past by putting yourself in the same setting, with the same people and sharing a few good laughs and stories. Guess what? There’s nothing wrong with this… as long as you don’t pine for it. If you keep moving forward, spending time reminiscing over a great period of growth is highly encouraged.
It makes you happy. It enables you to learn. It puts you in a place and frame of mind that positively influences your thoughts, bringing back great memories and helping you make sense of your current state.
I remember in the final few months of my senior year in high school thinking, “I’m so ready to go to college and get out of this place.” Part of the reason was the fact that I had two older brothers who had already graduated college. I visited them several times during their college years and had a great time. I was excited for change.
I’ve always embraced change, even when I haven’t thought everything through.
Yet during the first week of my freshman year of college, I encountered my first adversity. I couldn’t possibly have known what it would be like to be away from my family for a long, extended period of time. I had really only been away at most for about 10 days for a basketball camp.
As I sat crying on my bed listening to my U2 CD (yes, not all music was yet digital!), my college roommate, who became my college best friend, tried to help me with my homesickness. He remains one of my closest friends to this day for a reason. Rob showed me empathy and emotional intelligence that was well beyond both of our years. He had gone through quite a maturity challenge himself.
You see, Rob’s father accepted a job in Bangkok, Thailand when he was in seventh grade. That meant that Rob had to move from… Middlebury, Vermont, all the way to the other side of the world, leaving behind friends, family and all that he knew. He moved back to Vermont during the middle of his junior year of high school. Except that time, he didn’t want to leave Thailand.
For most of us, we can only imagine the heartache and emotional strings that must have tugged for such a young person. Yet Rob also benefited from having such a challenging, yet profitable experience. He talked me down from the ledge, so to speak, and made me realize that I didn’t have to rush to come home.
That if I kept looking forward to all the promising things that awaited me, everything would be just fine. Of course, he was right. It’s one of the best life lessons I’ve ever learned. And now, Rob is a friend for life. At that moment in time, I was dwelling too much in the past. And it was time to move on. But every now and then, even for a fleeting moment, it’s OK to remember the good ole days.
3. Be proud of the person you are, even if you still have moments of doubt. Accept yourself.
No matter how much you doubt yourself about past decisions or actions that you took, that you may still think to be foolish, give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Take a breather and realize that things happened for a reason. Of all the things that I’ve learned as I’ve matured into a man, ACCEPTANCE is probably the most valuable lesson of all.
I accept my past. I accept things that have occurred. Naturally, acceptance is particularly focused in this instance on negatives, shortcomings, mistakes and failures. It’s easy to accept victory. It’s easy to accept standing in the winner’s circle and gaining the adulation of your peers. It’s easy to accept the fruits of your success — the culmination of self-satisfaction and fulfillment. That’s a reward!
It’s hard to accept failure.
When failure occurs, we can either turn that adversity into something we learn from and improve upon, or we can let it sit in our conscious and subconscious minds, influencing our thoughts, and slowly chipping away at us as it ruins us. Acceptance is mindset and a way of life. Acceptance never means being OK with failure. Quite the opposite.
Acceptance means understanding, processing and moving on from a past event, while learning from it and living with an empowered mindset for every other hurdle or easy day that comes our way. Acceptance is practiced by the most mentally tough, emotionally intelligent people I know. It changes your life and colors your thoughts more positively so that you have greater peace of mind and clarity of thought.
It’s why regret is never an option for me. I’ve taken the disappointment of not giving things my best effort and converted it into an indomitable spirit that powers the fire and hunger inside of me each day.
4. Don’t pick apart mistakes or foolish things you did. Laugh at them and realize life isn’t always a “repair job” of everything you’ve done wrong
When I was in high school, I did some stupid things. The fact is, my friends and I were sometimes full-fledged knuckleheads. We were incredibly immature, we thought we were funny and were totally OK with living in that reality. Growing up right outside New York City on Long Island, I had the good fortune of growing up around some very talented classmates.
One of my closest friends was the comedian that you likely know by name today, Amy Schumer. Amy and some of our good friends were a great tag-team of “wiseguys” that relentlessly peppered teachers with jokes and pranks that gave everyone a laugh. That’s just the way it was. Did we waste some time? Maybe.
But do you think Amy Schumer would change anything about where she’s ended up in her career? That’s a rhetorical question. I can tell you this, while she’s counting her millions of fans, I doubt she’s too concerned about the Gadsden Purchase from junior year History or the Periodic Table from Chemistry. And neither am I.
I am the person I am because of the experiences I lived through. I don’t live with regret. I’ve learned from mistakes and failures but I’m completely at peace with all that has come and gone in my life. To the times I had fun, to the times that I suffered, it’s all good.
The bottom line is that learning about our past, making sense of our experiences, both good and bad, offers us a treasure trove of knowledge, wisdom and insight that will carry us throughout our lifetimes. Keep maturing, keep growing and don’t forget to laugh sometimes. Life is funnier that way.