Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.
Many of us live within limitations we see as hopeless walls around us. (“I’m not smart/good/strong/attractive… enough.”) We stumble beneath the criticisms and betrayals of others. But are we victims of the bullies or of ourselves? Is there any truth in the saying that what you think changes what’s possible?
Once (in the real world) there was a boy who was sure he was worthless. He was certain his future would play out in a detention center. He was often in trouble. Bullies beat him up for being from an immigrant family. A change began when his older brother believed in him, when the boy decided to prove to the bullies that he could be more than what they said he was. He wanted to prove that he couldn’t be defeated. In the film of his life titled Unbroken (based on a book of the same name), Zamperini’s brother told him he had only to “take it until you make it.”
And so, Louis Zamperini became a runner—not just any runner. He worked until he was an Olympic runner. Then came WWII and the Army Air Force. After surviving a long ordeal in a life raft, Louis fell into enemy hands where he was the victim of savagery–primarily by a Japanese officer called The Bird. The Bird wanted to break the American Olympic athlete. He wanted to prove his own superiority, the superiority of his countrymen. He considered himself a patriot.
Zamperini was brutally abused daily for 27 months. His refusal to be humiliated and destroyed stood as an inspiration to his fellow prisoners until they were finally liberated—a cruel six days after the war ended. After years battling severe PTSD, Zamperini was 80 years old when he finally ran for the Olympics, carrying the torch across Japan for America. Doctors had told him that he was too injured to ever run again. The Bird hid until Japanese war criminals were pardoned by the United States. He was the only captor who refused to meet Louis Zamperini when his victim arrived as a free man.
As I watched Zamperini’s story, I was embarrassed that this man could survive so much and still prevail, when I complain about far lesser grievances, far lesser deprivations (a weight loss diet?). Then I started thinking about how an ordinary man could surpass what anyone (including The Bird) could expect. How did he exceed his limitations? He refused to surrender to them. In his mind, he was still “taking it” as he had learned to do as a boy, trusting that one day he would “make it.” His thoughts changed what had seemed to be reality.
How often do we surrender to our thoughts, believing them to represent undeniable fact, when in actuality we hardened those limitations ourselves? Even if we have people around us telling us what we can’t do, we still have a choice. Who do we believe? The naysayers? Because, as one airman who died in the life raft beside Zamperini discovered, once you accept your defeat, it’s inevitable. You can’t know how far you can go until you go as hard as you can.
As 2016 rolls forward, the choice is ours. Dream big and then make it happen. I dare you.