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Overcoming Obstacles: Believe Bigger

Last month, I gave a commencement speech at Southland College Prep Charter High School, outside of my hometown of Chicago. While I was focused on the graduating class before me, one of the points I made—about overcoming obstacles—is applicable to all of us, at all stages of our personal and professional lives.

For all of us, overcoming obstacles demands resilience, fortitude, and fearlessness. But I like to say that in the mess lies the message. Amid chaos and change, we can find our place of purpose, the sweet spot where we can have our greatest impact.

How? First, fight each day like your life depends on it. Refuse to take “no” for an answer. And when you find yourself down, take a deep breath and believe bigger.

Second, challenge the limiting beliefs that hold you back. Get in control of what you believe. Make sure your worst enemy is not living between your two ears. You have to stop yourself from stopping yourself and choose actions that are in your own best interest.

Third, choose your circle carefully. It is not about how many people you know, but what company you keep. Your inner circle should be filled with people with their own testimony; they should be able to share with you how they have come out on the other side of trials and tribulations. Be very weary of people who claim to have not faced any challenges because either they have and they’re in denial, which does no one any good, or they’re about to and you want to avoid being caught in the middle.

Fourth, feel fear and do it anyway. If it scares you, it usually means you are on to something. Leap into your life with excitement and enthusiasm. Step out on faith, even if it means making a mistake. God, the universe, spirit – whatever you call your guiding light – offers enough grace to put you right where you need to be. What is worse? Not taking the risk, not leaping, and living with regret? One of my favorite motivational videos is Steve Harvey’s “Jump” because it lets you know that everything you want is on the other side of fear.

Fifth, invest in yourself. It is here you will see the greatest returns. Realize that you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. everything you need to be successful is already inside you. All you have to do is honor your intuition and say, “no” to whomever or whatever does not feel right to you.

And for the sixth and final way you can believe bigger: fail early and often. I am inspired by Michael Jordan’s iconic words shared in an ESPN interview: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Michael Jordan missed 9,000 shots in regulation play. Imagine how many more shots he missed during practice! Perhaps tens of thousands of shots that no one saw.

The difference between average people and high achievers is their perception of, and response to, failure. Failing is inevitable, but using failure as a stepping stone takes guts, persistence and an unshakeable self-confidence.

We all possess these skills. As motivational speaker Zig Ziglar says, it’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce that counts.

Believe bigger.

This article was originally posted on LinkedIn.

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