Jim,I just got back from the Nova Scotia Amateur Championship. I had one of the best golfing moments of my career and I can honestly say I wouldn't have made that putt or even have been in that situation if it wasn't for your help over the past year.
So Long Self: The Power of Selflessness
"In my country, we go to prison first, then become president." - Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela is one of the most recognized and revered icons to ever live.
He went to prison for 27 years for the crime of opposing a racist government, which cost him his family, his freedom, but never his dignity. He never lost faith despite decades of back-breaking work in a lime quarry and living in a cell that was about the size of a walk-in closet. He gave his whole life up, knowing he may die in prison, on the chance that one day his time would come.
The other day I thought about meeting Madiba (as he's affectionately called) when he came to speak to us in the Olympic village. I thought about how he lived and how I wanted to live. I thought about freedom and passion and leading a life worth living. I thought about how I put my mind, body and soul into the dream of becoming a superstar athlete, and then a coach, and how I rode this emotional roller coaster, because my confidence was dependent on my latest results.
So I woke up last Saturday and wrote a little story about my life and where I want to take it. It's called
So Long Self
This is about me. I’m Jim. It’s all about me and it’s not about me—if you know what I mean. So often people don’t, but that’s ok, because I’m getting rid of myself. Not suicidal getting rid of, but, well you’ll see. First I’ll tell you who I am so you’ll know when I’m gone.
I am an American, but also Canadian. I’m two people; well actually more than two. I'm a learner, a reader, an at one-time a real deal ath-a-lete. A baseball player, football player—those two for sure—but also golfer (a very amateur one) a skier/snowboarder, a squash player, a tennis player…and I’m also a five-star chef. Ok, I’m not, but wouldn’t that be sweet?
I am also a hiker, a biker (not the Harley kind—yet—well actually once in Oklahoma for a couple afternoons, which I loved and will do more of, I think), a fisherman (not as often as I like), a mountain man, and many more details that I won’t bore you with, like the fact that I don’t really know who I am.
I may sound a bit confused, but maybe it’s you that are the confusing one, and I am the ultimate non-confusing person, the one everyone wanted to be like in the third grade; the one the teacher loved to call on because little Jimmy would always give the right answer, and was always picked first at recess, and when he stepped on your toes on Tuesday (because Tuesday was toes-day) and you complained, Mrs. Singer would say “I don’t want to hear anyone complain about Jimmy anymore.” Because Mrs. Singer loved you, and treated you special, because you were special. Yeah, maybe that’s who I am.
And you? You are probably not as good as me. A nobody perhaps, compared to me anyway, because whoever you are, I am just a little better—in the important things anyway. Or at least I thought I was when I compared myself to you, like if we just met or even if we didn’t and perhaps we were in a room full of strangers like at a dinner party and I was just looking across the room at you.
That’s why I’m writing this, because I’m done with the comparison.
My entire life has been one long journey wanting you to love me, to say how great I am, to introduce me as "This is Jim. He's this and that and he's done this and that, and wow! and yes! and amazing! and other you should be impressed-type phrases that bring raised eyebrows of adoration. Whoop-de-do.
For so long what I’ve wanted most are things and people (beautiful ones) and admiration. That’s changing. The years have shown me the futility and unease that comes with setting my heart on what I cannot fully control and can never get enough of. It’s made me self-conscious.
That’s why I’m letting go.
I want to lose the part of me who wants you to think I’m an amazing athlete and smart and popular and everything you want to be; the one who wants to tell you about my love for literature and how I’m so cultured and well-read and Big Time.
The truth is, I’m not.
I don’t know Shakespeare from Sesame Street. Well I do, but not enough. I should know way more how they’re not the same, and there are so many things I should know way more of.
In fact I know so little it’s sad and crazy and perhaps shocking that I know so very little about history and art and music and the bible and many, many very important things. I suppose I’m like a fish that has never heard of water. I’m ignorant.
In fact I know so little about so much, I can’t even think of what to write to you about that I know so little of, or how much I know so little of everything.
Maybe to get to know me, I should tell you what I do know. I know I am loved. Not just by my mom, but by my dad and my family and my neighbor’s cat Monty (well I don’t really know that, sometimes I think he just comes over because I made a special bed for him and I give him treats and he likes to have a second home) and I know God loves me.
I know that 2 + 2 = 4 and I know how to write complete sentences and I know you may think I'm wierd, but I don’t care if you think that, because I know I’m different, and I prefer to use the word unique.
But since you aren’t different, and I am, you wouldn’t know how cool it is to be like this; like me.
You wouldn't know what it's like to connect so powerfully with beauty and nature and sports, and have sacred moments, and to love dogs so much that you talk to them (bark?) when you see them (not like a mad-man, crazy forgot-his-meds type of barking, but just a “hey there little hombre.")
Now you think that I am crazy, but again I’m ok with that, unless you go off and tell your cool friends that I’m weird and that I bark to dogs and you don’t supplement it with how it could possibly be a freaky-talented type of weird, but you probably don’t have cool friends like that anyhow.
You probably have no one like my one friend Steve who understands how my "uniqueness" is similar to freaky-talented because he’s seen me hit a baseball 500 feet, or ok, maybe 475 feet, but anyhow he’s seen me do something you can only dream of—if you even knew that dreaming about that would be completely unreal.
But enough about Steve and me.
Because I’m leaving.
Because I screw things up and I am self-centered and proud and have an ego and many faults that I won’t share with you because you’ll judge me. Well, at least if you told me you had those faults, I would judge you. That’s one of my faults.
It’s why I’m saying so long. It’s not that I’m not thankful for who I was, or what I was given, it's just that I'm tired of trying to impress you--though secretly I’m actually really hoping you’ll love this writing and you’ll ask if you can email it to your friends and put it on Facebook and Twitter (without asking) and then Maureen Dowd at the New York Times will read it and she’ll print it in her column but not without a little preface saying it’s the best writing she’s ever seen and she’ll read it to her class—if she has a class—and she’ll frame it and put it on her wall, and she’ll pass it on to her colleagues at the Washington Post and she thinks I may just get awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
In fact as you read this she may be calling her contacts right now, the ones that she only calls on important business, the ones who are super busy with crazy-important Nobel Prize-type stuff but will take her call even in important meetings because she is that type of person.
But now I’m getting rid of that guy, the one who wanted to be a rich and famous superstar athlete on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and be interviewed by the cool people who talk really well on TV and are good looking and seem to have it all (um… by the way… if you are that person—I’m whispering now—even though I’m saying all this, you can still email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and invite me on your show).
The fact is though, I’m tossing that mask and going for what I really want.
Most of all, beyond all that, beyond trying to impress you so that you’ll at the very least think I’m really cool and perhaps, in some passing moment when you’re in your car stopped at a red light, think that I’m successful, and how you’d like to be me and maybe one day you’ll have coffee with me and interview me and ask my secrets. And you’ll think, oh I’ll read his book first. But then you’ll probably forget.
Beyond that, what I really want is to be fearless.
I want to be so connected to God that I'm filled with inner peace and passion and confidence.
I want faith that goes beyond any stressful circumstance…
…like wondering if you’re still reading this, or maybe you’ve fallen asleep, or spent 5 or 7 minutes looking for a toothpick so you can jab it into your leg because that will feel better than reading this and you can’t believe you wasted all this time; that you’ll never get this time back and you’ll think of all the wonderful things you could have done with that time like walk your dog or watch TV or stare at the wall. That’s the stress I don’t need anymore.
I want to be the person I was created to be, the one who was made by God and for God for an incredible out-of-this-world relationship with God, a relationship filled with passion and miracles and life so abundant that you feel it when we meet. Not that you want to be me or are impressed by me, but you sense that what you’re sensing is not me, that’s it’s God, and you want it.
So, so long Self. It’s time to move on. I’ve met someone else.
Written from Jim’s bed on a Saturday morning. Jim is a Performance Coach and the author of Inner Excellence:Achieve Extraordinary Business Success Through Mental Toughness (McGraw-Hill), as well as Dugout Wisdom: Ten Principles of Championship Teams (Coaches Choice). He tells his story around the world of how to have confidence and live deep.