A Case Study in Success
A PERSONAL STORY
Like Michael Jordan, I have achieved everything important in my life and work without any goal-setting. I never wrote down that I would be a professional speaker or author of a book.
My background would suggest that what I have accomplished in life is impossible. I was raised on the Navajo Indian reservation. I was the only Caucasian boy in my high school senior class, and most of my peers didn't like me because of the color of my skin-and because of what the bilagonas (white men) did to their ancestors. They held an inherent anger toward me, and I was bullied almost every day.
Each day, school would let out at four in the afternoon. At three-fifty every day, my heart started pounding and I knew what would happen next. As soon as school let out, my classmates chased me, and if I got caught, I got beat up. Recess and gym classes were dangerous times for me-from the time I was eight years old until I was sixteen, I lived in constant fear. At the end of every school day I would ask the teacher if I could leave early and get a head start home. Knowing the situation, the teachers usually let me out early.
One day, when I was ten years old and still in grade school, a boy my age put gum in my hair and slugged me in the mouth. I went home with a fat lip, bleeding and crying. My mother took me to my father, who was working in the trading post less than a block away. My father believed that if I fought back, the bullies would leave me alone. So he put me in the car and drove me to where the boy lived.
When my classmate saw me with my dad, he ran away. My father chased him down and stood him directly in front of me. My dad then tried to make me hit him. "Slug him," my dad said. "Hit him back!" The boy put up his fists in a boxing pose, getting ready to fight.
I refused to hit him. I just stood there with my hands at my sides, crying. I don't know all the reasons why I didn't fight back, but I knew I was simply terrified. My father tried another tactic-fear motivation. He said, "If you don't hit him, I'll give you a whipping." Still I would not hit the boy, and in the end I got that whipping.
Finally my father got angry and shoved me into the car. As he walked around to his side of the car, I heard him mutter, "I can't believe I have a coward for a son!" I can still recall these heart-rending words. He said it with such disgust and disappointment that I grasped how upset he was with me, and I was sure he didn't like me.
I was a coward, and I knew it. My father knew it, too. Everyone knew it. I was teased, taunted, and mercilessly ridiculed. And I thought my father was ashamed of me. For years I lived in fear and shame.
School was never a good experience for me. I did poorly, and my grades were terrible. I was trying to appear okay-to be funny, to fit in some way-so I mouthed off a lot. I got into a lot of trouble with the teachers, several of them making it clear that they didn't like me. My teachers said things like, "You are such a loser," "You'll never amount to much," "How can you be so dumb?" I was sent to the principal's office, and in those days of corporal punishment, I frequently got bent over his desk and paddled with a board.
When I left high school I was convinced that I was dumb and a loser. I understood hardly any math. I just couldn't grasp one concept before they went on to another. I never considered going to college, telling myself, "I'm not about to pay money to go through that torture again." My self- esteem was nonexistent.
When I was nineteen, I took a job as a milkman, and quickly found I hated it. I gave notice shortly thereafter that I was quitting. But my boss at the dairy really liked me and offered me the chance to work at his karate studio as the manager. He offered me a salary and told me that he would teach me how to do the job. And he would teach me all the karate I wanted to learn-for free!
For years I had lived in fear of being beat up and had suffered the shame of being a coward; so when this opportunity presented itself, I didn't have to think about it. I said yes!
I threw my heart and soul into karate. For eight years, that is basically all I did. I had an intense Core Desire to defend myself and regain my self-esteem. No one would hurt me again, and I wasn't going to be a coward anymore! I was driven from within to never again be afraid of any person, to get back at those bullies, and most importantly, to win my father's respect.
My Core Desire was so powerful that I achieved many of the fighting skills of a black belt. Because I was driven from within to learn to fight, I became very good, and I was taught by some of the nation's top fighters.
I loved every minute of it. I was injured many times-I had my nose broken twice, I jammed and sprained nearly every finger on both hands, I broke my left wrist, several toes, badly bruised my shins, and received many fat lips-but I persevered. Did I love the pain? No! But because this was a genuine Core Desire, I never quit. This is the awesome, never-quit attitude that Core Desires bring with them. It's automatic.
I even entered a tournament with a broken wrist. I went to my karate teacher-a seventh degree black belt and world champion-and told him that I wanted to fight but that I was injured. He asked, "How bad do you want to be in the tournament?"
"Very bad," I responded.
"Then do it. You have other weapons. You have two feet and another fist with which to fight. Go in there and do your best." And so I did, and I lost, but I began to earn the reputation I longed for-that of being one tough guy.
Now that I am older, I know that fighting wasn't my Core Desire.
My Core Desire was to not be afraid or be called a coward anymore, to win back my own self-respect as well as the respect of my father. I also found another Core Desire: I wanted to be noticed and looked up to-not just to win fights.
I had no talent, no self-esteem, and no athletic prowess that would suggest I could do what I did or become what I have become, but I did. How can that be? Without understanding it at the time, I had tapped into the energy and passion of a Core Desire and had refused to let my past determine my future.
By Jack M. Zufelt
"Mentor To Millions