Playing on instinct – the leap from mediocrity to exceptional

Many years ago I wanted to be a professional tennis player; the Aussie version of Martina Navratilova – tall, vein popping, muscle ripping arms; taut waist but minus the lesbian tendencies and fat thighs. I was once a serious tennis player. I had lessons from an early age, I was selected and played in the McDonalds tennis squad, I played local junior and senior competition tennis every Saturday and I once tried out for the Victorian Country Squad. My parents used to drive me all across the state to play in various tournaments; I used to practise every night after school, and I had coaching twice a week. When I had no one to practise with, I used to bring a bucket of balls down to the local tennis courts and just work on my serve. Good thing the tennis courts were just down the road from mum and dad’s.

I was once a dedicated student of the game. I used to watch every Grand Slam tournament and I remember staying up in the wee hours of the morning watching Pat Cash beat Ivan Lendl in the 1987 Wimbledon final. I was a member of Cash’s fan club for a number of years and, hell I used to even wear that ugly black and white checkered headband. I was obsessed with tennis and I wanted to be the next Australian Women’s Wimbledon Champion. God knows we needed another female tennis player on the international circuit that would actually win games. I was going to be that person. I was going to be the next big thing!

But then, from the age of 14, something happened. I became a regular girl who started taking an interest in boys and listening to lots of music. I became lazy and then I simply lost interest. The dream evaporated and before I knew it, I was just another average teenage girl with no exceptional talents or skills. I was conventional; I was regular – I became a sheep.

While I had dreams of becoming the next Navratilova, I never really believed I was going to be. While I was dedicated and practised the game regularly, I lacked confidence – a severe lack of confidence. Of course I did not realise this at the time. I was just a naïve 14 year old who barely knew the difference between a polecat and a ferret. It was this lack of belief that a simple girl from a country town called Traralgon would ever be a Wimbledon champion. Who was I kidding? Me, a tennis champion? That only happens to very special people and I did not think I was anything special – far from it!

So I let the dream slip away and went back to being your average teenage high school student. If I could talk to that little girl now I would tell her to do things very differently. I would tell her to possess one thing and one thing only. I would tell her to possess self-belief.

Self-belief is what separates the good from the great; the leader from the follower and the wannabe from the entrepreneur.  It is self-belief that determines what type of life each of us is presently living and the perceived success or lack of it that exists in our lives.

At aged 22, fashion designer Premal Patel; fed up with dealing with an overbearing boss; decided to start his own men’s fashion label – from the boot of his parents’ Volvo.

In those early days he’d jump into the rusted old car at 6:30am, not returning until late at night. Store by store, Patel, who had quit as an assistant at another fashion label, would collect business cards, and then approach the owners, imploring them to give him an opportunity to showcase his range.

His biggest challenge was one that rings true for many business owners: cash flow – or rather, a lack of it. Trying to come up with the money to fund future production while chasing outstanding monies to pay for past production created nightmares that were difficult to overcome.

Those tough beginnings paid off. His label, Premonition, has experienced growth in each of its eight years, even during the dreaded financial crisis that had many fashion designers doing more worrying than designing.

Today, Premonition can be found in over 100 Australian retail stores, and Patel has two concept stores of his own in Sydney, with one more opening soon in Melbourne (The Age).

Moral of the story: he never gave up!

Take Rory. He is in a band called THUNDERHAWKS (that is Rory on the far left). They are a Canadian band that is starting to make a name for themselves. Rory, a distant cousin of mine whom I met briefly six years ago, is in his second year at college. His mother and I correspond regularly via email and she explained to me that she was quite upset when; after a rough period of Rory starving, broke and almost homeless; quit a part-time job he just received, to go on tour with his band for one whole week because the employer wouldn’t grant him the time off.

Now many people, particularly those of an older generation, may shake their heads in disbelief at such flippant behaviour. Daryl Kerrigan may say his dreaming but at least Rory is taking action to make his dream a reality.

Some may view Rory as just some punk kid with an attitude displaying behaviour that appears to be typical of his age group – lazy, self-indulgent and doing anything to not work. I wholeheartedly disagree. When Rory’s mother emailed me the story, I smiled and I thought this kid knows what he wants.

Rory is playing on instinct and simply following his intuition. Most of all, he has passion for his music. Some would suggest that Rory should stick out the job because the chances of ‘getting discovered’ and making rock and roll history is slim. That may well be true and while I have no knowledge of the inner workings of the music industry, I suspect that Rory has great belief in himself and in his music that he knows that some day, perhaps very soon, he and his band mates will receive rock glory such as a Grammy Award nomination or inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Rory has a passion and ultimately it’s this passion that will drive him to succeed. Many people are too practical; too logical in their thought processes that I suspect anyone else would have succumbed to their employer’s demands. That is what struck me about Rory when his mother first told me about his situation– a kid that was starving, had no money and living in a basement with five other guys – was prepared to put up with further hardship with the hope and ambition that he will follow through with what he really wants to do with his life. That is, to be a professional musician and I say good on him!

Why else would he be prepared to put up with this hardship if he didn’t believe in what he was doing? Rory has a self-belief that is to be admired not discouraged.

Now his mother possessed the normal fear that any other mother would have in these circumstances. She explained to me that after a few head-bashing sessions with her son, she came to accept Rory’s decision because she knew how important music was to him, and in the end, breathed a sigh of relief. I told her to chill out and to let things unfold naturally, and to most of all have faith in her son’s decision. The worse thing that can happen is for the son to take on his mother’s negative energy.

Self-belief is following your intuition. Self-belief is why the likes of Tom Cruise, Donald Trump, Richard Branson, Barack Obama and Bob Dylan receive the highest accolades in their respective professions.

Australians will recall Jessica Watson, the 16 year old who, this year, became the youngest person ever to sail solo around the world unassisted. The Australian Prime Minister said at her reception that she was a true hero but what was significant for me was her response. She said that she did not see herself as a hero but an ordinary teenager with a dream and the belief to make it come true.

If people start telling the story they want to create as opposed to telling the story of what is, then I guarantee they would manifest and create the life they truly want to live. None of us have to put up with mediocrity in our lives. The reason some people do is because of the thoughts they think and the lack of belief they have in themselves to have the power to change it.

Every single person on this planet is personally responsibly for the way their lives develop and the circumstances that unfold.

The good news is we can all escape mediocrity if we are willing to remodel our thinking. We can all live an above average life.

There’s no greater feeling than feeling inspired. I love nothing better than hearing a story of how one started out with absolutely nothing to conquering and achieving the impossible.

Phil Collins knows exactly what I am on about here when he sang Against All Odds.

Perhaps you have achieved something in your life you never thought possible. Do you know of a story or person who faced impossible odds to achieve the success they desired? I would love for you to share your stories or experiences.

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~ by Shae on August 2, 2010.

10 Responses to “Playing on instinct – the leap from mediocrity to exceptional”

  1. Two thumbs up, Shae… 🙂

  2. Love it Shae and love you more – keep up the good work, v proud of you xx Carrie

  3. Good one Shaeby. It has taken me until my thirties to find my own truth and realise the contribution my thoughts and beliefs have had towards my existence. Now I have embraced this concept, my dreams are coming true more and more each day. Each day brings more exciting news about my journey in life. Each day is a blessing and no longer a chore. Self belief is most definitely the way to achieving every dream you desire. If you can think it, you can achieve it!

  4. Hmmmm Shae – you set hard goals for yourself! My ethos is a lot simpler – ‘Be the best you can be – at what you love doing. Be proud of your failures – as well as your successes. ‘. I started off life with a number of dreams that turned out to be unattainable, due to lack of skill or opportunity. I probably mourned possibilities lost at some stage, but I never had that obsession to ‘be number one’, either academically, in sport or personally. I think I am universally seen by those who know me to be a keen competitor in any arena – however, the only person I’ve felt I had to impress was myself! Conversley, I’ve never had the slightest issue with others exceeding my achievements (my wife for example!). You raise some excellent examples of people pursuing dreams such as Jessica Watson – what a star she is – I think she is fabulous. However, that tale of triumph could so easily have ended in tragedy. Because she succeeded, she has become the role model for kids pursuing dreams – but what if the story had a different ending? Would we still be driving our kids to chase their dreams if she had been lost at sea? I have to admit that I’m glad my daughter didn’t have the same goals – to tell the truth, I am too selfish about her staying safe. I think that too often, there is confusion about what success is. It would be naive to believe that sommeone will not eventually be lost trying to beat Jessica’s record. For me, its being at peace with who I am, and what I’ve done – however, if others think differently – thats ok too!

  5. It is really hard not to transfer my own limiting fears as a parent onto my children, because, like Steve, I just want them safe! Well, I want them safe and happy and never hungry and, well you get my drift. I want everything for them. But most of all, I want them to soar as they leap from the nest. My fear of flying only serves to ground them (hmm is grounding a good thing?).
    Post note..Rory called on his way to New Brunswick, where the Thunderhawks will play their last show on this tour. He’s stoked, he said it has been one of the best experiences of his life. Just wait until he finds out it has been a National tour with International attention!

  6. Hi Delia – and thank you for your comment – however I feel you have placed a safe foot in each camp with your comment, rather than taking a specific stance. My daughter undertook a 3 month European tour and I have to confess, I worried about her every day… but despite her somewhat risky stories – I wasn’t over worried – after all – nothing sinister had happened to an Australian tourist for quite some time – this was obviously pre-Brooke Lapthorne. If her journey had been post that incident, I would have almost certainly looked at her trip differently, If I actually thought I could lose my precious girl by allowing her to take such a risk – I would have almost certainly have baulked at it. I applaud you for giving your son his freedom – but I see a vast difference from what you describe compared to the Jessica Watsons’ of this world. Like me, you prepared your child to the best of your ability to cope with the varying challenges of life
    and then rejoiced in their ultimately safe return – what you and I have done is completly normal – compared to JW – where there was always an overwhelming chance that she would not survive the attempt – obviously the prospect of dying in the attempt was very real. I would be interested to hear your conflicting views.

    • Steve thanks for the comments. In relation to your first comment, I see a big difference between mediocrity and contentment. I am talking about those people that view do their lives as mediocre. Clearly you do not view your life that way therefore you have achieved a level of success in your life that you are happy with.

      I also believe that you do not have to do not have to aspire to be “number 1” in all that you do in life. That wasn’t what I meant but I can understand how some people might perceive what I wrote that way.

      I also believe that you do not have to be a ‘Richard Branson’ or some other ‘big name’ to define one as being successful. There are plenty of successful people in the world who we never hear about and never will. Success is defined by the individual whatever that maybe. Some people are more driven and motivated than others and there is nothing wrong with those who do not have big goals in life. But people also need to take responsibility for their own lives and the outcomes that occur. For example, I know people that constantly whinge about the state of their lives but yet they are not prepared to do anything about it. It’s always someone else’s fault or they are blaming their circumstances on something external to them. I find that behaviour frustrating and annoying.

      In my experiences, it was only ever lack of self-belief that prevented me from doing things in the past I wish I hadn’t stopped doing. Now, I am facing life head on and as a result I am manifesting some great results in my life. Life does not have to be a struggle, which I thought it once was. However I am also aware that I am fortunate to have had this realisation in my life whereas for some people,they are still on their journey to self-discovery.

      The point of my post was that I was simply trying to say that if you want something, go for it. I think most of us are too practical in how we make decisions and we let our logical side take over. Rory didn’t and while some people may view his decision as too carefree, he simply wanted to pursue something he loved. And therefore I believe he made the right decision.

      Both Rory’s and your daughter’s experiences are clearly very different from Jessica Watson’s so I am not sure whether it was fair to compare that to Rory’s situation. Bearing in mind that Delia would not know who Jessica Watson is too. I thought you both made comments that were complementary of each other.

  7. I think no matter how much you try to explain what you meant with your blog, everyone is bound to interpret it differently depending on their personal situation. That is the great thing about blogs! Therefore I am commenting with my own experiences and belief as a frame of reference.

    Delia – Rory’s bound sounds great!  I also think it is great that no one made a rash decision to stop him from doing what he wanted to do. I can imagine he has become someone better and closer to understanding who he is. Life is all about testing your boundaries (especially at a young age) and learning more about who you are and in turn who you want to be. A parent’s trust and acceptance is critical to their child’s self belief. At least… this is my experience. When I wanted to move to Australia (I am from the Netherlands) my parents stood behind me 100% and have let me make my own mistakes and successes throughout life because they have enough faith in my ethics and responsibility. Having said that I believe it depends on the nature of the child as to how far a parent should allow them to fly and to what extent to ground them. If a parent has grounded their child enough along with their upbringing (through teaching them wrong vs right, ethics, responsibility and morals) they should definitely allow their child to make their own mistakes, because the successes that result from them will be life changing –in a good way. My mom did say “after this you will come back and finally settle and build a life here.” I know that she is trying to give herself a peace of mind and also trying to knock some ‘reality’ into me, and to some extent she might be right but I disagree with her too. I am building my life as we speak. I have learned so much over the past 7 months of being in Australia. I have learned about who I want to be and have never believed in myself more. Not because I came here on my own and have succeeded in landing a fantastic job, meeting beautiful people and finding new love –all within half a year –but because I am happy with where I am in life and what I have achieved/experienced.

    Shae you have allowed me to share my thoughts and start discussions with those close to me about dreams of when we were younger vs being realistic which I want to thank you for! I have also fine tuned my own realization on self belief and satisfaction in life thanks to this blog. I do want to offer my opinion on the following quote “we can all live an above average life”. I think it is safe to say that everyone’s definition of ‘average’ will be different (it can even have a positive or a negative connotation). Having said that, I feel that your quote implies that an average life is a bad thing. But what if someone was brought up with very little (whether you refer to money or family or self belief) and developed into having a lot more. In their frame of reference their life is way above average, but in my frame of reference it may not be the same.

    As Steve said; “be the best you can be”. Some people don’t need to set goals because it is their nature to strive to be the best they can be and enjoy their lives to the fullest without even thinking about it, it’s their talent. Bringing up a topic such as setting goals to strive towards and talk of living an above average life could have a negative impact on the ongoing success such a person is experiencing. In those cases goals and consciously becoming who you want to be might not be relevant. My question here is: what leads us to happiness and self contentment? Does everyone need goals –that they have set to strive and achieve –or can we follow the path to our success without thinking about it too much?

  8. Loved reading “leap from mediocrity to exceptional”, and the comments you have received Shae. I think we all have different ways of measuring our successes in life, some are over achievers, some are just achievers and some just like to roll along with life, and that’s ok as long as we are happy with the choices we make in life

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