I still remember the event like it was yesterday. While I was still in college, I was walking up the stairs to a group breakfast. I had reached the room at the top of the steps and waved ‘hello’ to friend in the middle of the room. In between us was an older man who suddenly doubled-over, grabbing his throat. The room with about fifteen people in it suddenly fell silent, but no one moved. Everyone was watching the horrific scene as if it were going to fix itself. The man kept coughing meekly and turned to face me.
Don’t think. Do.
I don’t know him. Doesn’t matter.
Is this really happening?
Something must be done.
I walked over and spun him around while a small crowd softly gathered to gawk at my attempt. I put my arms around his stomach and pulled back three times until whatever was stuck suddenly came out. The crowd dispersed quickly and the man thanked me. I went to the bathroom and dry heaved for a minute for three reasons. 1) I couldn’t believe that stuff really worked. 2) I couldn’t believe it just happened. 3) And most of all, I couldn’t believe I was the guy for that moment.
(Bruce Willis, “Live Free or Die Hard”)
Action movies, superheroes, and comic book characters have such a magnetic attraction that is hard to resist. Although the images are fictional, they portray a vision or belief we wish to absorb. Lost in these personas are the long, hard roads of discipline, focus, and character. While the flashbulbs and cheers are reserved for the red carpet, no one sees the sweat, toil, and anguish of dedication and preparation. In my career, I learned these moments were the ones of value. The times spent alone, when no one is watching, are the most precious. Studying, preparing, and honing your craft and intellectual discipline to achieve a present state awareness that can easily find clarity in chaos. This is what matters most. When a room is saturated with ‘group think,’ do you have a mind that can rise above the mental fog to truly see fact from fiction?
Weeks after the ‘incident’ I decided I wanted to go into Human Resources because I wanted to make a difference in a company I worked for. HR seemed to have all the characteristics I wanted to be successful, and I thought I had qualities that would propel me quickly once I had my degree. Floating through my day, I waved at a professor I knew standing at elevator. She smiled and started to bring her hand up, but a girl walked in between us and suddenly dropped on the floor. What the…
The professor instantly dropped everything she had and grabbed the girl before she hit her head and checked her pulse. She looked up at me and saw my shock and didn’t say anything. Someone else walked up and the professor calmly told them to call 911. Someone else walked up and the professor told them the girl just gave blood (band-aid on her arm) and she probably didn’t have enough energy at the time. The professor looked up at me and asked if I was okay, and I nodded ‘yes’ but I wasn’t. I felt helpless and weak for different reasons.
The key takeaways I got from both situations:
I’m never as awesome as my successes. It’s easy to get lost in the confetti, but the cheers and praise are not falling solely because of my presence.
The sharpness of my awareness can be tested at any time. Success doesn’t find those who are just ‘lucky.’ The sustained discipline, focus, drive, and will to propel yourself beyond what is deemed ‘satisfactory’ will determine your preparation level for success.
There is always a reason to take the ‘easy way.’ There is always a reason to stand there and do nothing. There is always a moment to cry about what is not fair in life and how your past pains have dictated present unhappiness. Excuses are just noise. Whiners complain when it’s tough. Leaders look for challenges. Why? Because they know without a true possibility of failure, you can’t experience success.
What if today became the first day your mentality changed? What if today your title changed from ‘Victim’ to ‘Catalyst?’ Instead of shortcuts, excuses, and disengagement, your discipline is layered with mental agility, accountability, and awareness. What type of professional would you become? What type of person could you be? This is your moment.
I don’t know you. It doesn’t matter.
Do what is necessary.
You want success – something more must be done.