Proof you can do or be anything

This weekend I heard an interview on NPR with Leo Welch, an 81 year old musician who just put out his first CD this year. The music gave me pause when I thought about how many of us give up on our dreams thinking we’re too young, too old, too poor, too well known, too ________. How many examples there are of people who have followed their calling despite what the external realities were around them?

Here’s a quick list of inspiring evidence that anything, truly, is possible. For all of us. Each set starts with a limiting belief. You may say I can’t follow my dream because….

“I can’t sing.” 

Bob Dylan is one of the most prolific and well respected musicians alive today. And yet no one would confuse his voice for Frank Sinatra’s. I love this defense of Dylan’s voice written by Stephen Webb of First Things,

“Complaining about Dylan’s voice is like complaining that your scotch tastes too peaty. If you want something sweet, get a colorless spirit that easily surrenders to the overwhelming invasion of fruit juice. Otherwise, let his voice burn your ears just as it sounds like it is blistering his throat when he sings…Both scotch and Dylan are reminders that beauty emerges out of and redeems, rather than opposes and destroys, the ugly. A little bitterness makes the scotch taste sweeter, and wavering off key makes the difference between a good singer and a great performer.”

“I don’t have formal training.”

Julia Child, perhaps our most famous popular cook of the century, was already 36 before she even began to learn about cooking. Her prior experience was essentially zilch. And don’t forget, she dropped a chicken on live TV. Rachel Ray, Julia’s modern equivalent, had even less formal cooking training than Julia. She spent most of her twenties in various food jobs and later began teaching cooking classes offering students tips on how to make full meals in 30 minutes or less. After a local TV station asked her to do a segment, well, you know the rest.

“I’m too old.”

If 81 year old Leo Welch isn’t example enough, think of Lousie Hay who started her publishing outfit, Hay House Inc., in her 50s. She’s now in her late 80s and Hay House is an international publishing giant with offices in San Diego, New York, London, and Johannesburg among others that takes in more than $100 million annually, 8% in profit.

As a personal example, take my grandparents, who are constant inspirations. My grandmother went to college and then got her masters degree in her late 40s and my grandfather switched careers in his 60s after many people his age were ready to retire. In fact, he did retire from his first job before pursuing his dream of being a psychologist.

“My early life was too messed up.”

One word: Oprah. She was sexually abused, had a teenage pregnancy, grew up poor. Add to that black and female, which put even more odds against her future success, and no one would expect the meteoric rise to fame and fortune she has experienced. Oh and Louise Hay? Raised by an emotionally distant mother and brutal step-father and raped at age 5, she dropped out of high school after becoming pregnant at age 15, then worked menial jobs until moving to NYC. After finally finding a successful career and getting married, her husband of 14 years divorced her in favor of a younger woman. Oh, and then she was diagnosed with cancer. Today she living a happy and healthy life in San Diego.

“I don’t have the credentials.”

These days it seems that a master’s degree is the new bachelor’s. But is it necessary? Richard Branson barely graduated high school and chose not to go to college. Abraham Lincoln had to teach himself grammar at age 23 because he had only one year of formal education. John D. Rockefeller dropped out of high school and began his career as an assistant bookkeeper.

“I don’t have everything I need to begin.”

Neither did Brushy One String. This soulful Jamaican became a viral sensation when his homemade music video plucked the heart strings of viewers worldwide. With just one guitar string and a passionate voice, he’s booked gigs around the world including a local performance at Mass MOCA. You better believe I’ll be in the crowd this Saturday night dancing away to his melodic beats and celebrating his willingness to do what he loves. And to just start.



3 thoughts on “Proof you can do or be anything

  1. Betty Reuben says:

    My dearest one. We are both so touched by your “Proof You Can Do Anything” article. Grandpa and I agree that we are not the perfect examples compared to the others who experienced change of life moments. However I have to admit that just knowing you think so is so precious to me. There is no question that you too are and will be one of those who is always motivated to take advantage of what life has to offer you. We are so proud of who you are and of your ability to express yourself so others too can believe as you do I love you Grandma

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