|Image by Bethany Carlson|
Did you know that Albert Einstein could not speak until he was four years old and did not read until he was seven? His parents and teachers worried about his mental ability.
Or that Beethoven’s music teacher said about him, “As a composer he is hopeless”? What if young Ludwig believed it?
When Thomas Edison was a young boy, his teachers said he was so stupid he could never learn anything. He once said, “I remember I used to never be able to get along at school. I was always at the foot of my class...my father thought I was stupid, and I almost decided that I was a dunce.” What if young Thomas believed what they said about him?
When F. W. Woolworth was 21, he got a job in a store, but was not allowed to wait on customers because, according to his boss, he “didn’t have enough sense.” I wonder if the boss was around when Woolworth became one of the most successful retailers of his day.
When the sculptor Auguste Rodin was young he had difficulty learning to read and write. Today, we may say he had a learning disability, but his father said of him, “I have an idiot for a son.” His uncle agreed. “He’s uneducable,” he said. What if the boy had doubted his ability to excel?
A newspaper editor once fired Walt Disney because he was thought to have no “good ideas.” The great Italian tenor Enrico Caruso was told by one music teacher, “You can’t sing. You have no voice at all.” And an editor told Louisa May Alcott, just a few years before she wrote the classic novel Little Women, that she was incapable of writing anything that would have popular appeal.
History will long praise each of these famous people, but what became of their critics? Nobody even remembers some of their names, which is all that need be said.
But what if these young people had listened to those critical voices and became discouraged? Where would our world be without the music of Beethoven and Caruso, the art of Rodin, the ideas of Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison, the imagination of Walt Disney or the literary contributions of Louisa May Alcott? As it was so accurately put, “It’s not what you are, it’s what you don’t become that hurts.” (That from Oscar Levant.) What if these people had not become what they were capable becoming, had not done what they actually could have accomplished, just because they were discouraged by people who couldn't see them for what they were?
We all have potential and, whether you realize it or not, your desire to do or be more than you are is your best indicator of future success. Others may discourage you, but the most important voice to listen to is your own. Do you believe in you?
Still the voices of your critics. Listen intently to your own voice, to the person who knows you best. Then answer these questions: Do you think you should move ahead? How will you feel if you quit pursuing this thing you want to do? And what does your best self advise?
What you hear may change your life.
-- Steve Goodier
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