Fire Strengthens Steel

When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it. ~ Henry Ford

The big question: Are you truly prepared for life?

Go to school, achieve great feats, get a job, have children, travel the world, visit your grandchildren, go to sleep. That’s how we draw it up. It’s very simple. Surround yourself with great people, be indiscriminately kind, and always leave the world in a better place than the way you found it. It’s a magical interpretation. Magic however, is an illusion. No matter how steadily you watch, how keenly you observe, or how intently you anticipate the result, you will never be one-hundred percent prepared for the curve balls life throws you. True preparation means acknowledging that nothing is set in stone, even stone itself. Take nothing for granted (especially success), and be prepared to adapt when unexpected events strike.

More often than I prefer to see, athletes of all ages anticipate success beyond the scope of their realistic potential. Social media is only making this issue worse. Behind the filters of social media, athletes delicately craft the image they want to project to the world while vicarious parents can’t help but view their children through rose colored glasses. We invert statistics to interpret life as how we want to see it, rather than how it actually is. This is dangerous.  In order to be truly prepared for the unexpected failures and setbacks that life has in store for us, we must be brutally honest with ourselves. Honesty reveals our weaknesses – pressure points that if left unattended will open the door to failure. By addressing these weaknesses, we become better prepared to weather life’s unexpected storms.

More than any other culture I have ever been a part of, we truly try to prepare our athletes to embrace their successes and accept their failures. Some failures are predictable, others are unforeseen devastation. If you live with the belief that success is the key to happiness, perhaps you need to learn more about the formation of steel. Fire strengthens steel. With the right mindset, adequate preparation, unrelenting support from friends and family, and an acceptance that failure is as much a gift as success, you will always be stronger. You are the steel that is not afraid of the fire.

There are two critical ingredients to steel: iron and carbon. If acknowledging your weaknesses is the iron to your steel, then character is your carbon. Character is defined by the way in which an individual handles power. Power presents itself in life a number of different ways. Gifts of intelligence, confidence, aesthetics, or athletic ability are attributes that describe us but they do not define us. The power of a gift and how we use that ability is what defines our character.

Attributes that require great effort will round off the rigid corners of your gifts. Faith, work-ethic, generosity, humility, and empowerment are just a few intangibles that will help alleviate moments of adversity, doubt, betrayal, and tragedy. Make no mistake about it – life has an intent to shape you into a wonderful person and through the process you will experience success, failure, joy, and misfortune. With the gifts of family, friends, intellect, and humility your character will flourish as a product of all your experiences to come.

Take a moment to yourself and reflect on your greatest fears. For some of us it is our body image, for others it is our medical conditions, our separated parents, or our financial hardship. These are all fears we know exist. Think now of what could possibly happen – albeit very unlikely. Illness may affect a loved one. Injury may end our athletic career. Conceiving a child may not be possible. In the event these fears are realized, they will be the fires that either forge or destroy you. You already possess the composition of steel – know the fire will make you stronger.

Failure, like success, will make you more than a great parent, great friend, or great athlete. It will make you invincible. Acknowledge it, confront it, accept it.

Greatness requires exceptional preparation.