A long time ago I decided that ordinary wasn’t good enough. I wanted to do something extraordinary with my life. I was familiar with Emerson’s comment, “Most men live lives of quiet desperation,” and every fiber in me rejected the concept. I vowed I never would surrender to mediocrity, never settle for less than the best (and beyond) of what I was capable.

Easy to say. How to do? How to reach one’s full potential? How to live one’s dreams? I knew that no magic wand exists, that there is no one overarching secret that, once found, would instantly open the door to greatness.

I believed that the key to my greatness was persistent small steps coupled with passion and focus. I eschewed the search for “seven-league boots.”[1] I thought it a distraction many indulged in at the expense of true progress. My way may have lacked the glamour and excitement of rushing toward the brass ring, but it was effective. I was much more the tortoise than the hare (although there are times when even the tortoise is well advised to surge).

As a child I was not particularly fast or strong or quick. But I did have a brain and I used it to observe the people in the world around me. I was surprised to witness people making disparaging remarks about themselves, running themselves down. If they didn’t believe in themselves, how could anyone else? Why would anyone ever take a chance on them, trust them with any responsibility? “For who shall answer an uncertain trumpet?”[2]

I resolved to become my own best friend. This was one of my first small steps. I began to think and believe the best of myself. I called out to the stronger, truer side of myself and acted in accordance with the best in me. I became my own head cheerleader, my own #1 fan.

Understand that empty platitudes were not acceptable. This was not about facile praise.[3] My task was to be a true friend to myself, striving for the proper balance of support and challenge, being honest but encouraging, acknowledging the reality of any shortcomings but focusing relentlessly on the good and the potential yet to be achieved.

Resolving to become my own best friend was a simple thing, yet it created powerful leverage. Becoming my own best friend boosted my spirits, increased my energy, sharpened my focus and, because I believed in me, others did too (“for who shall answer an uncertain trumpet?”). Which then created even more opportunity and support, resulting in even greater leverage.

I had this life-shaping epiphany about the age of 12. But it’s never too late to become your own best friend, your own #1 fan, your own head cheerleader. It is a vow I find myself reaffirming to this day.


[1] “Seven-league boots are an element in European folklore. The boots allow the wearer to take great strides——seven leagues each step——resulting in great speed.” Wikipedia

[2] The full quote is, “For if the trumpet give an uncertain voice, who shall prepare himself for war.” 1 Corinthians 14:9

[3] I have never seen any glory nor taken any pride in “easy victories.” My inspiration comes from President John F. Kennedy’s “moon shot” speech given at Rice University in Houston on September 12, 1962: “We do these things and other things not because they are easy but because they are hard.”

This is a classic from the NSC Blog archive. Originally posted May 6, 2008.