by Robert Evans Wilson Jr.
One afternoon, back in eighth grade, I was hanging out with my pal Charlie when I noticed copies of Sports Illustrated and Car & Driver magazines on his desk.
“Hey, I didn’t know you were into cars and sports,” I said.
“I’m not,” he replied.
“But these magazines are addressed to you.”
“I read them, because that’s what the guys at school are talking about, and I want to join in. I want them to like me.”
“Why don’t you talk about what you like?”
Charlie just shrugged.
I couldn’t believe Charlie would waste his time doing something he didn’t like or care about, but a year later I was guilty of the same thing–only worse.
I was looking wistfully at pictures of cute girls in my high school yearbook when I said to my friend Tony, “I sure wish I knew how to talk to girls.”
Tony replied, “The girls always talk to guys on the football team. You should go out for football.”
It was all the motivation I needed. So without ever having played the game before, without even knowing the rules, I joined the football team. I immediately found that I hated it. I had to run in full pads, two or more miles every day in the hot sun. I had to lift weights, do sit ups and push ups, but the roughest part was tackling. I was six feet, two inches tall and weighed 150 pounds; I was a skinny bag of bones with no cushion and getting my body slammed to the ground really hurt. And, I was getting bruised for nothing; the girls still weren’t talking to me.
I wanted to quit, but that would’ve meant losing face, so I stuck it out. Then one day, because of my height, I was asked to scrimmage on the defensive line with the varsity team.
“Ten, twenty-two, seventeen, hut!” The quarterback yelled. I burst through the line and lunged forward to tackle him. I was inches from grabbing him, when suddenly I was hit so hard it lifted me in the air. I crashed to the ground face first, and when I tried to stand, I felt an explosion of pain that made me black out. Seconds later, I came to, but my leg would not move. When I looked down, it was bent in the wrong place and I could see the bone pushing against my skin.
My decision to pursue a sport, not for the joy of it but instead to impress someone that I did not even know, put me in the hospital for two weeks. I had two surgeries, screws put into my bone and a cast on my leg for six months. Adding insult to injury, walking on crutches didn’t get the girls’ attention either. It was a lose-lose situation.
You would think I might have learned a lesson from that experience, but for years afterward, I repeated it again and again. I would pursue jobs, relationships, even leisure activities for the wrong reasons. In short, I was not true to myself. Sometimes when others are persuading us, we find ourselves doing things that make us feel uncomfortable. We ignore those feelings because we want to be accepted. Peer pressure doesn’t end at age 18, it continues until we learn to listen to our feelings.
When we are motivated by something that makes us feel anxious, nervous or ill at ease, we need to pay attention to that feeling and find its root. When we do, we will most likely find that we are uncomfortable because we are living a lie. I have learned that pursuing interests that bring me joy also give me confidence. My confidence then attracts people who want to be with me for who I am and situations that generate greater satisfaction. I have finally found the formula for a win-win situation.
Robert Evans Wilson Jr. is a motivational speaker and humorist. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators. For more information on Wilson’s programs, visit www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com/.