It is essential to understand that battles are
primarily won in the hearts of men.
– Vince Lombardi
Vance was an incredible guitarist. In fact, he was so good, everyone who heard him play thought he’d grow up to be a professional musician. In his heart, he thought so too. “Life is music. Keep on rocking!” he tagged in my high school yearbook. Unfortunately, his parents thought otherwise. They wanted him to get an MBA just like his father. Vance respected his parents. So once in college, he put away his guitar and committed himself fulltime to his studies. “Music isn’t an option right now,” he told me during freshman year winter recess. “My folks are paying my tuition and I can’t afford to be on my own.”
Madison dreamed of being an NCAA Women’s Soccer champion. From the time she was a child she was swift and agile, with an obvious athletic gift. In college, she dedicated herself to the sport. During Madison’s freshman year, her team placed 3rd in the division. In her sophomore year, her team placed 2nd, barely losing in the finals to a rival school. Madison was named team captain at the start of her junior year, but immediately tore her ACL in the season opener. She was devastated! When she returned to the game the following season, she was no longer in championship form. “It’s not that my speed and agility isn’t there,” she admitted to me after a disappointing preseason practice. “It’s that I’m scared to go for it. If I don’t seriously injure myself again, I may have a decent career ahead of me as a college coach.”
Good Excuses are Still Excuses
Vance and Madison had fairly reasonable excuses for holding back. Vance had commitments and debts to his parents who were shelling out big bucks each year for his college tuition. He wasn’t willing to disappoint them. Madison was considering the idea of becoming an NCAA soccer coach someday. She was concerned about the risk of another major injury that could potentially inhibit her coaching abilities.
Yet despite these reasonable excuses for not following their hearts, they couldn’t change who they were… who they were born to be.
“I knew deep down, when I wrote a business case on marketing and promoting local musicians, that music was still part of who I was. It never stopped pulsing through my veins, and choosing to ignore this passion would have eventually ruined me,” Vance recently told me.
“After my junior season came to an abrupt halt, I just couldn’t shake those late-season, freshman and sophomore losses out of my mind. I knew I wasn’t done. I didn’t want the injury to defeat me… I just couldn’t go out like that,” Madison told me after an NCAA sports convention last winter.
The Choice is Ultimately Yours
As his parents requested, Vance majored in business administration, but also secretly minored in music at the same time. When he graduated, a talent scout from Disney sent him an invitation to play lead jazz guitar for several ongoing shows at Walt Disney World. He accepted the invitation and currently makes a decent living playing guitar full-time. His whole family is proud of his success. “In hindsight, it’s strange to think of a time when I chose not to play because I thought it would indirectly damage my career,” he said recently. “Because the true damage… the life altering damage, would have been to quit playing for good.”
Madison pulled it together and begged the coach to place her back in a starting position for her senior season. Then she passionately attended two-a-day practices and fervent physical training sessions. When game day finally came, every effort in every second of the game was a direct pronouncement of her love for the sport, the sport that was part of who she was. Madison played well and the coach kept her in as a starter for the duration of the season. Amazingly, her team made it all the way to the finals and placed 2nd in the division again. No, she never won the NCAA championship she so deeply desired, but she walked away knowing she’d gained so much more. “In the end, I knew I did exactly what I was born to do, using every capability contained inside of me.”
The Only Way
Vance and Madison inspire me. So do others like them who refuse the excuses and follow their hearts against all odds. Because of them, I realize that being “me”, in exactly the way I was born to be, is the only way to truly live.
Photo by: Esparta