Have you done absolutely everything you can to reach your dreams?

A few nights ago, I sat in bed working on my laptop while Andy and Riley slept soundly next to me. That night, “working” meant catching up on a bunch of reading I had been putting off, including this 2-part personal essay by wide receiver Andrew Hawkins. (Formerly with the Cincinnati Bengals, currently with the Cleveland Browns.)

You guys, this essay wrecked me. I sat there in the dark, tears streaming down my face, sympathizing with every struggle, every doubt, every hope in Andrew Hawkins’s words. Because I have felt those exact same things on my writing journey. I still feel them. I’m still striving.

In spite of his talent and his drive, Andrew Hawkins was too short. Too small. He had to find unique opportunities for himself — or make them. He caught a couple good breaks, but a lot of bad ones too. Two steps forward, one step back. For years. But he didn’t quit. He had faith and patience. Perseverance. Passion. Now he’s finally where he wants to be, and it means everything to him.

It means a lot to me too, to read about it, because his story basically asks, Have you done absolutely everything you can to reach your dreams? I want my answer always and forever to be yes.

Part 1: “Coming Up Short”

What would you do if someone told you couldn’t have the life you wanted? What lengths would you go to to prove people wrong and live your dream?

Part 2: “Whatever It Takes”

It was creeping up on the fall of 2011, almost four years since I stood on that scale at 161 pounds and told myself I could make a run at the NFL, and I was back to square one without an NFL contract. I didn’t even last one day in the league. And during my pursuit of that dream, life started happening around me. My girlfriend was pregnant. Now, with a baby boy on the way, it wasn’t just about me.

I still cry before every game. I wish I could put those feelings into words, but I can’t. As the tears run down my face, I think of everywhere I’ve been, everything I’ve overcome and everything God has brought me through. Now, I’m able to provide for my son in a way I never thought I could. Despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles, despite the impossible odds, I achieved my dream.

Like this:





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  1. I’ve seen people take these stories in two different ways. Some people think, “Hey, this person tried and tried and never gave up and eventually got where they wanted to go. So, if I do all that, I’ll get the same result.”

    Well, no. Probably not. These stories become news because they are the exception. And a lot of other people, the ones who didn’t get there, they probably wanted it just as much.

    But here’s the lesson I do take from that, and I think it’s a really important one.

    What do you want your life to be like? There’s the “you’ll regret it if you don’t try” thing, but this is bigger than that. Do you want to play the odds, assume you won’t succeed, and sit on the sofa watching cat videos your whole life?

    I was a professional musician, and the bands I was in really gave everything we had to make the big time. Short story: we didn’t make it.

    I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

    • Exactly. The two lessons aren’t mutually exclusive; they are completely intertwined. You probably won’t be the exceptional success — but (a) you’ll never know unless you try, and (b) what matters is the effort anyway. I think Andrew Hawkins’s essays reinforce his belief in that, even if neither he nor I stated it as clearly as you did. Thanks for expressing it so well in your comment!

  2. yogadog

    Sometimes, when I’m struggling and struggling to write an argument in a brief, I step back and realize, the problem is, the argument isn’t very good. The law isn’t on my side. Or it’s the wrong argument. And I stop. Because not struggling to write a weak argument isn’t giving up, it’s good judgment.

    I think there is a danger in picking a goal and doing everything you can to reach that goal at the exclusion of many other things. (Why do we call goals “dreams?” Dreams are fluid and continually changing. Goals tend to be static ends we want to achieve.) I agree with Anthony, it is the doing that matters, not whether what you do is successful.

    • To your point, I think there’s a difference between goals and dreams. I actually don’t use them interchangeably. To me, goals are smaller and more concrete. Dreams are more big-picture and emotional.

      So I don’t think what you’re talking about (giving up on a goal that isn’t working) is mutually exclusive from what I’m talking about (pursuing a larger dream).

      That said, I’ve definitely had to stop and evaluate my decisions to make sure that my pursuit of my dreams isn’t coming at the cost of something more important. (Andrew Hawkins mentions this as well, like with his young family.) I think it’s often a balance between that and giving up too soon just because one’s dreams don’t come easily.

    • Yogadog, I agree. Even apart from dropping a project (or plot or argument or character) that isn’t working, sometimes you have to quit on a larger scale.

      George Bernard Shaw wanted to be a novelist, at which he was almost completely unsuccessful. However, by giving up on that idea and changing his direction, he became one of the most significant playwrights in the history of the English language.

      Henry James was the opposite — a failure as a playwright no matter what he did. He’d try drama again from time to time throughout his life, still mostly unsuccessfully, but he devoted most of his time and energy to becoming a novelist so sublime that his fans refer to him as “The Master.”

      If each had kept following his original dream, the history of English literature would have two big holes in it. :-)

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