I used to be really good spelling. Yes, as is… spelling words.
In fact, in 4th grade, I breezed through my elementary school’s spelling bee competition and went on to participate in the District competition.
I was pretty sure I was going to win. I could spell really difficult words – words I could barely pronounce.
So, how’d I do?
I was the first person out.
In the first round.
Did I mention that in the first round they give you the easiest possible word to spell so each competitor can get comfortable on stage? Yeah, I misspelled that one.
I completely froze on stage after seeing the large audience. I couldn’t formulate a coherent thought, let alone spell words. I was deer in head lights on display for all to see.
I vividly remember hearing a gasp from the audience as I misspelled the word. How could someone misspell THAT word?
I had just humiliated myself in front of A LOT of people. I was so embarrassed.
I headed backstage with my head down in shame and, just as I got out of the site of the audience, I burst into tears.
I suppose the only benefit of being the first person eliminated is that there was no one backstage to see me cry.
As I looks back at that moment, there were a few lessons that I learned:
1. Ultimately, no one really cared that lost – I just thought they did, which added to my self-inflicted embarrassment. Don’t let short-term failures fester into something larger than they are. Analyze what went wrong, learn from it, and move on. Everyone else has.
2. It’s amazing how much influence our own thoughts have – both good and bad – on perception of our own self. If you’re constantly worried what others think, you’ll never be comfortable being yourself. As soon as I froze on stage, I immediately began thinking that people are going to think I’m stupid instead of actually trying to think about spelling the word properly. I didn’t have the mental control back then to reel my negative thoughts back in, and focus on solving the problem. I do now. I surround myself with positive people and try my best to maintain a positive mindset. For me, this is one of the biggest factors on living a happy life. I could write a whole book on just this topic and all of the ripple effects a positive/negative mindset has on one’s quality of life. Maybe that’s a project for another day.
3. In spelling bees (and in life), your success is largely up to you. Sure, you might need a few breaks along the way – especially in later rounds – like getting a word that you happened to study the night before. But first you’ve gotta get past the first round to give yourself a chance to win. When starting something new, so many people over-plan to the point they never actually get started. They’re stuck in analysis paralysis and never make any progress towards a goal. Don’t be that person. Put forth the effort and commitment to get past the first round. If you can make it past the first step toward achieving a goal, steps 2, 3, 4, etc become that much easier as success builds upon success while your confidence grows.
I took the whole spelling bee experience much harder than I should have, and that word, LIMIT, festered in my head for a long time.
I devoped a distain for that word that has stayed with me my entire life. Simply put, I hate LIMITS.
I used to think back to that moment at the spelling bee, and how I NEVER wanted to feel like that ever again.
Finally I realized that I don’t have to. Whenever I catch myself thinking about something negative that happened in the past, I stop myself. Why invest any energy in negative thoughts – especially ones that are in the past and you have no control over changing? It’s emotionally draining, unhealthy, and utterly pointless.
The more you let negative thoughts control your psyche, the more LIMITations you’re imposing on yourself.
Screw LIMITS. Be your best. It’s all in your control.