It’s not the cards you’re dealt, it’s how you play them.
It sounds trite, and you’ve definitely read this on one motivational poster or the other somewhere along the way. But if this little platitude still doesn’t hold water, look no further than Patrick “Blake” Leeper, the U.S. Paralympic athlete who’s been medaling in track and field events since he first appeared on the scene in 2011.
He was born with both legs missing beneath the knee and fitted with his first prosthetics when he was just nine months old. The new limbs allowed him to participate in basketball, baseball, and all the other sports boys his age enjoy. But it was also during one of those games that he had one of life’s defining moments.
His bat connected with the ball with a “thwack” and (after recovering from shock) he started rounding the bases, ecstatic that he’d finally hit a home run! All his teammates would finally accept him and shower him with praise, and his dad would be so proud! In fact, his dad was right there at third base, cheering him on! He chugged his little legs as hard as he could and surged forward, getting closer and closer, he was almost there …
And then his leg fell off.
I’m sitting there in the dirt with my leg, one leg on, one leg off, and I felt like I let my father down, I felt like I let my teammates down. I was mad at myself. I was mad at the world. I remember asking myself, “Why me?” … This isn’t fair. Why am I the one born without legs? Why am I the one that has to go through this?”
That’s a question all of us would ask ourselves, given the same situation. But he realized that self pity was also self defeating, and that he was asking questions about something he couldn’t do anything about. If he stayed stuck in that place, he’d never move forward, never feel the satisfaction of finally hitting a homer. (Much less breaking a world record previously set by his fellow Paralympian, Oscar Pistorius.)
So I decided to flip it. I decided to take control over it. Started to ask myself, “Well, why not? I’m meant for this.” Or, “Why not me? I’m strong enough for this.” “Well, why not me? I’m smart enough for this.” Everything that we go through is for a reason. Whether it’s something big or something small, it’s preparing us for our next mission.
He overcame that first big disappointment, dusted himself off and moved forward, refusing to admit defeat or listen to the naysayers.
And from the moment he started pounding his high school track with his new set of running blades, feeling the wind blasting across his face and the sweat trickling down his skin, the cheers coming from the stands as he sped past, his path was set: He was going into track and field.
My story is that anything is possible. You can do anything as long as you set your mind to it and as long as you focus hard and you put 120% effort in whatever task that is at hand.
Can you believe this guy?!
Life is 10% of what you’re dealt with and 90% on how you deal with it. Focus on that 90%. That 10%, you have no control over.