3 Principles That Will Change Your Life
by Tony Bazen
July 21st, 2019
Growing up in a rundown trailer at the end of a dirt road in rural North Carolina, I always struggled with an inferiority complex. We didn’t have a nice home, my family didn’t own the nicest car, and we couldn’t afford name brand clothing. I carried the weight of an oppressive attitude that daily screamed at me, “You can’t!”
While sidestepping the nature vs. nurture debate, most would agree that our environment, especially during the formative years of our youth, plays a significant role in the outlook we have on life. When reared in a violent (my father became abusive when drunk) and negative atmosphere and when not given much positive affirmation, it is easy to doubt your abilities and decide that you just don’t measure up. This low estimation of your own abilities leads to introversion and fear, especially of rejection and failure, causing you to retreat into a shell that seemingly offers a measure of safety and making you averse towards any situation or opportunity that carries with it a measure of risk.
The individual with this poor inner estimation of self is really not that difficult to spot. As a child, he rarely will raise his hand in class to answer a question because of the risk of giving the wrong response. He doesn’t try out for the athletic team or run for student council, fearing rejection. He fears asking that girl who caught his eye to the school dance because she will surely say, “No.” He doesn’t apply for college scholarships because the thought of being turned down is simply overwhelming.
Sadly, even well into his adult years, he doesn’t apply for promotions or remains stuck in a dead-end job because he is afraid to venture out of his comfort zone. This vicious internal cycle that originated early in life continues to convince him that he can’t achieve great things. That condemning inner voice convinces him to just settle for status quo or to continue to meander through the maze of mediocrity.
Can you relate to the plight of an individual like this? Are you surrounded by self-doubt, trapped by trepidation, or dogged by the dread of defeat? Is your career being curtailed by your constant caution that paralyzes you from taking the steps necessary to make progress towards that deserved promotion? Are you incarcerated on the isle of I Can’t?
I have some great news for all of you who weren’t born with the proverbial silver spoon in your mouth. I offer hope and help for those among us whose confidence needle is closer to empty than full. If you can follow these simple principles, you can accomplish your goals and realize your dreams.
- The “I Can” Principle
I mentioned the ramshackle mobile home at the end of Pineview Drive in Durham County where I grew up. My favorite aunt, Aunt Carolyn, lived right beside us in an even less desirable trailer. We had a doublewide, but she lived in a tiny singlewide. Growing up, I spent as much time in that small trailer as I did my own, especially when my father was drinking, which sadly was more often than not.
My Aunt Carolyn was not an educated woman. In fact, she had not finished high school and fit perfectly the persona many have of the stereotypical redhead, possessing a fiery disposition that led her to often speak harsh words. As a ten-year-old, however, I’ll never forget the simple words of wisdom she shared with me.
My aunt and uncle were painters by profession. I’m not talking about Da Vinci or Van Gogh but the Sherwin Williams type of painters. I would often accompany them to “help” them paint. They regularly joked that I came back at the end of the day with more paint in my bucket than I had left with or that I had more paint on myself than on the walls.
One day I was absolutely massacring the trim in a particular house despite the fact that Aunt Carolyn has painstakingly shown me once again how to hold my brush and how to cut-in around the trim. In frustration, I cried out, “I can’t do it!” I will never forget her simple, straightforward words that day as she sternly said, “Can’t never could do nothing.” Her English may have been slightly flawed, but her message was right on the money.
If you think that you can’t, you will never accomplish much in life. If you think you can, you probably will. Adopting the “I Can” Principle can literally revolutionize your life.
The Wright Brothers operated by this principle. Undereducated, underfunded, and underestimated, it would have been much easier each time they failed to be the first to fly to just say, “I can’t” and return to their bicycle shop. Their dogged determination to keep going in spite of the opinions of their opponents, the obstacles they faced, and the overwhelming odds that seemed stacked against them is a great illustration of people who live by the “I Can” Principle.
Thomas Edison understood this principle. In his attempts to develop the light bulb, he encountered over 1,000 opportunities to say, “I can’t” as he experienced failure after failure. Every time I go into a dark room and flip a switch and enjoy an illuminated room, I’m glad for people like Edison who live by the “I can” principle. Edison succinctly summarized what I am trying to say, “If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”
We need to remember the power of words and stop saying, “I can’t.” We need to start speaking encouraging words to ourselves. Words like “I can solve this problem”, “I can accomplish great things,” and “I can get this promotion” can become self-fulfilling prophecies.
Promptly get plugged in to the power of the “I Can” Principle and watch how things begin to change for the better in your life.
- The Partnership Principle
There are very few, if any, self-made men or women. Successful people can usually point back to others who made a difference in their lives. Perhaps it was a teacher, a coach, a parent, a colleague, or a mentor of some sort who motivated them to reach their potential.
Our world is filled with negative voices that must be drowned out if we are to avoid the ditches on Success Street. Surrounding yourself with the right people is one of the keys to finding and enjoying the path to emotional, mental, physical, spiritual, and financial prosperity.
John Paul St. Pierre was one of these type people that I am referring to. He was my 8th grade history teacher and also my football and baseball coach. I don’t remember much about what he taught, but I do remember how he made me feel about myself. Although an introverted, undersized football player, he saw something in me. He often took time before or after class or practice to speak simple words of encouragement to a praise-starved teenager. I ate it up and would have followed Mr. St. Pierre off a cliff.
He took a shy, emotionally scarred young man with a supreme lack of confidence and made him start believing in himself. He made me the captain of the football team. I had to lead the team in the defensive huddles and slowly began to see that although I didn’t own any Ralph Lauren polos and had to take the bus to school, I was not inferior to the preppy kids with their Alligator-adorned apparel who arrived at school in their Beamers.
The right people to have in your life are the encouragers. They point you towards your potential and are always there with a helping hand to lift you up when you fall. They celebrate your victories with you and offer a shoulder to cry on during your darkest moments.
If you are surrounded by Arrogant Andys, Bitter Bens, Critical Christinas, Depressed Davids, Emotional Evas, Frustrated Freds, and the like then you will find it hard to maintain positivity. These people will drain your emotional, mental, and even physical energy. They are like a virus that can literally destroy your happiness. James Sama made these astute observations about allowing the wrong type of people in our lives:
The wrong people will make you question what you, yourself, are capable of. It’s important to realize the weight they can put on your shoulders, and that these feelings are not coming from within. Not all of these situations are extreme in the sense of emotional or verbal abuse, but even something as small as discouraging you from pursuing your dreams, making you feel as though you’re not good enough, generally dragging down your morale, etc., can drastically deplete your chances for success and happiness (Sama, 2019).
Examine the people in your life. Are they lifting you up or bringing you down? Are they a charge or a drain on your emotional battery? Are they helping or hindering you from reaching your potential?
The Partnership Principle reminds us of the importance of surrounding ourselves with world changers, difference makers, and positive people who will help us on our journey.
- The Diligence Principle
I mentioned the influence of John Paul St. Pierre in my life, but my all-time favorite teacher was my 6th Grade teacher, Mr. Gerald. He was my first male teacher, which is a crying shame to realize how few male role models we have in the teaching profession in the early primary years, a time when many boys are starving for a man from whom they can pattern themselves after. My father was an absentee dad and later left altogether, and I was in dire need of a male that I could emulate. Mr. Gerald became that my person in my life, and I thought he hung the moon in place. I literally hung on every word he spoke, and his pronouncements in class carried the weight of a papal edict to me.
I’ll never forget his comments on my last Grade 6 report card. He said among other things, “Thanks for your diligence this year.” I had no idea what the word diligence meant, but if it engendered appreciation from the best teacher in the universe, it was a quality that I wanted to cultivate in my life.
Diligence carries with it the idea of being willing to work hard, to give maximum effort, to be determined to stick with something until it is finished. Great people are diligent people, refusing to give up, give in, or give out until the job is complete.
You may not be the most talented. You may not have a glowing personality. You may not be the most attractive. You can, however, be diligent. You can determine that only your best will do. You can decide to never stop until the task is complete. You can outwork the competition.
You have probably heard the words penned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in his annual letter to shareholders in 1997, “When I interview people I tell them, 'You can work long, hard, or smart, but at Amazon.com you can't choose two out of three’" (Abadi, 2018). The old maxim holds true, “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”
Determine to be the most diligent employee at your workplace, and you will be amazed at where this will take you.
The Big 3 Worked for Me
By finally accepting the truth that despite my humble beginnings, I Can accomplish great things, by surrounding myself with the right people, and by determining to be diligent, amazing things have occurred in my life.
As a boy, I was the ultimate introvert; as a man, I have spoken countless times before crowds that have numbered at times in the thousands. As a boy, my family couldn’t afford to travel more than a 200-mile radius from my home; as a man, I have traveled the world. As a boy, I was greatly impacted by teachers; as a man, I decided to become a teacher hoping to make a difference in the lives of others.
As a boy, these principles led me in middle school to try out and make the football, basketball and baseball teams, to run for student council and be elected president, to ask the pretty girl to the school dance and get a “yes,” and in high school to apply for and obtain a full academic scholarship to college. As a man, these principles have enabled me to progress from a teacher to an academic director to a vice principal and now to my current role as a principal.
These Big 3 have worked for me, and they will work for you as well. What are you waiting for? The rest of your life can be the best of your life. And it can start today!
Abadi, M. (2018). Jeff Bezos once said that in job interviews he told candidates of 3 ways to work — and that you have to do all 3 at Amazon. [online] Business Insider. Available at: https://www.businessinsider.com/jeff-bezos-amazon-employees-work-styles-2018-8 [Accessed 22 Jul. 2019].
Sama, J. (2019). The Importance Of Having The Right People In Your Life. [online] James Michael Sama. Available at: https://jamesmsama.com/2013/07/02/the-importance-of-having-the-right-people-in-your-life [Accessed 21 Jul. 2019].