What if you had the opportunity to change the one decision that could completely realign the direction of your life?
Would you take advantage of those powers? Or would you allow yourself to experience the mistakes that made you the person that you currently are?
Oftentimes we question or doubt our experiences. At other times we are saturated with guilt, caged by the idea of the "What if?"
At one point the “What if?” held my potential captive; it created a mental barrier that I could not overcome. I found myself lost in confusion with no direction of where to go. I allowed the “What if?” to dictate my future; it hindered my progress and kept me secluded in the past.
I was 17 years old in the Ursuline High School Gymnasium as I heard my name announced as an inductee into the National Honor Society. It was such an honor, but it was not the most memorable part of that day. As I exited the gymnasium, a well-dressed, dapper fellow extended his arm to shake my hand.
He introduced himself as my grandfather and let me know how proud he was of my accomplishments. It was the first time that I had ever met him.
Weeks later, I received a package in the mail from my grandfather. Inside was an engraved chest housing a gold chain and a diamond-encrusted pendant, along with a book that would change my perspective on life forever. “Three Magic Words” by U.S. Andersen included teachings that molded my moral compass and painted an artistic portrait that defined the importance of self-recognition.
It wasn’t until my early 20s that I truly learned to appreciate the substance of the text. It was during a time when the “What if?” had taken full control of my consciousness and it was Andersen’s words that freed my thoughts.
“I have sympathy and tolerance for all things and all people,” Andersen wrote. “I know that inasmuch as I help others I help myself. In my brother’s eye, there is my own soul. In my friend’s smile there is my own humor. In my neighbors' sorrow, there is my own loss. I have compassion and understanding for all things, for this life in which I have my being strives for understanding of itself. I deny error; it is simply progress toward truth.”
What we must realize is that life is the sum total of all our experiences, both wins and losses. We are here to experience love just as much as we experience hate, experience failure just as much — or even more — than we do success.
We can't allow ourselves to hesitate or make decisions with the fears of making mistakes — those experiences are our greatest teachers. And time will allow us to appreciate the failures more than we ever could the successes.
Our strengths lie in our shortcomings. And our success relies on them.
I challenge each of you to appreciate the things that you do wrong and allow them to be the lecturing professor that changes your life!
— Bryant Youngblood is the assistant director for the Academy for Urban Scholars in Youngstown and the executive director for The Mahoning Valley Fatherhood Coalition. He is a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and currently a master's student at Youngstown State University.