In my early twenties I wanted to be great at around 160 different things. I figured I was just about the most talented all-round individual since Da Vinci and better looking.
The range of my zeal and of my self-confessed natural gifts ran the gauntlet from A to Z of possible pursuits and included, in no particular order:
Tour de France cycling victory [I’d already done London to Brighton so how hard can it be?];
Olympic 800 metres gold medal – there are only 4 tiers from international to national to regional to county so no sweat.
National champs at least at table tennis, tenpin bowling, darts – already better than anyone else I know.
Rock Star – jamming with The Stones, record Deal at 21, bags of talent and looks so inevitable.
Antique dealer, wine expert, cordon blue chef, fashion designer, internationally renowned poet, interior designer, breakthrough modern illustrator and cartoonist, film actor, political activist, husband and lover to superstars and billionaires – I’d already dated 2 pop singers and a former miss world so definitely the start of a long career as roué cum gigolo.
What I was actually spending my time doing was studying law and obsessing on tape recorders and microphones. But the two things I never thought of doing for a second was using either for my path through life.
I look back at all the stuff I thought I would do. I chased it for ten years. during that time I didn’t pause to enjoy any of it.
It all goes to show how wrong you can be, particularly about yourself. I now find myself increasingly in awe of the work of others. From the global achievements of great sports people to the small market gardener in Zambia feeding the family. I find very little in common between them, except that neither of them seem to be enjoying it much. The sports men and women, who are entirely driven by self-glory and personal success and status and wealth find no difficulty in telling us all what a struggle it has been Struggle! You must be joking? struggling against ankle injury to regain your place at Man U? Describing press criticism of your lack of form as you ‘battle back from injory’ and ‘tough’? For goodness sake. Look around you at the big wide world will you? You have no problems, you have no struggle, nothing is tough for you. our lives have peaks and troughs and I acknowledge that some are troughs … but your expectations of what life owes you are completely unrealistic. As unrealistic as were my own when I was young. I didn’t achieve any of those things at all. Didn’t even come close. Does it matter? Not at all.did I suffer? Not at all.
Has the market gardener in Zambia had it tough? You betcha. Have the family struggled? Yes, struggled to keep alive, keep safe from violence and ruin.
Do yourself a favour. Switch your iPhone on to record, just for a day, then listen back. make a note of each time you say ‘’I need’ ‘I want’ I hate’ ‘she’s impossible’ ‘it’s been really tough’ ‘I’m sick of this’ ‘he’s useless'.
How much time and emotional needless energy are you wasting trying to make more of yourself for yourself? Here’s an idea. Think differently. Try dedicating yourself completely to things that matter. Take your ego out of the picture. Don’t worry about achievement just worry about people you can touch.
You don’t have to be a missionary or a monk or a nun or beat yourself up every day. It’s ok to want to be warm and comfortable. It’s ok to want to avoid danger, poverty and anguish.
But do listen to a millionaire sports star telling the world about their struggle and laugh at them out loud.
And keep practising those backhands.