It had been 15 years since he pushed himself to his absolute physical limits.
He played baseball in high school and college, on the clear path to play professionally, until a lingering elbow injury and burnout derailed him.
Since then, he had been pretty coy about wanting anything–not just in athletics, but in life.
He played it cool, figuring if he just kept his head down, someone would recognize his qualities and give him a shot at something worthwhile.
That changed in early November when a promising kid 16 years younger than him asked him to partner for the Winter Brawl.
When the surprise wore off, the reality of the proposal set in for Lee.
Was Lee ready to try again?
Was Lee ready to give something his all and risk facing the pain of disappointment?
Well, whether or not he was ready, Lee decided that day he would compete.
In making that decision, he suddenly felt accountable to his partner, JohnMichael, and he didn’t want to let him down. So over the next several weeks, Lee put in double the amount of training at the gym getting ready for this competition, not wanting to lag too far behind his partner.
And for the first time, he didn’t resent the hard work.
He didn’t complain about it.
He reveled in it.
It gave him a sense of purpose, but more than anything, it lit a fire under his ass he hadn’t experienced since his baseball years.
Fast forward to two days before the competition, and JohnMichael tweaked his neck putting on a sweatshirt. It was a freak accident, but it was severe. He couldn’t move his head in any direction.
The team was on pins and needles for the next 48 hours, wondering if they would be able to compete at full capacity.
On the morning of the competition, JohnMichael’s neck was in the same condition, and Lee decided they couldn’t risk causing JohnMichael a longer-lasting neck injury by letting him compete.
They had no choice but to back out of the competition.
And just like that, all of their efforts and training came to an end.
Lee was disheartened. He held it together at the competition for appearance’s sake, but he couldn’t help but feel like he was all dressed up with nowhere to go. He worked his tail off for the last several weeks, and it was all for nothing.
Or so it felt like.
But what Lee didn’t realize in the moment was that although he didn’t get to prove himself in a competition, he proved himself simply by his sheer disappointment.
Granted, he didn’t compete alongside others and prove himself physically; however…
The disappointment he experienced the day of the competition alluded to a deep well of desire he had finally tapped into, after 15 years of being asleep.
You can get a lot from fighting in the arena… but you can get even more from the adversity that prevents you from stepping inside the arena in the first place.
There is value to be found in preparing for and working toward something that may never come together the way you hope and expect.
Sometimes, just the reminder of your own drive and desire to be in the arena is enough of an end in itself.
And for Lee to be rekindled with the alien feeling of hope, even for a minute, was worth everything he endured.
There were lessons for both partners, although very different ones.
For JohnMichael, even though his youth has infused him with dreams of greatness and unstoppable potential, he learned that, sometimes, he will have to pace himself even when he doesn’t want to.
For Lee, on the other hand, he’s learned how to speed back up, and with the wisdom that now accompanies his life now as a 37-year-old, he can finally let himself dream of greatness again.
What can we all learn from their story?
In all of us, we have a constant war that rages between two forces: faith and fear.
In Outwitting the Devil, Napoleon Hill explains that people who aimlessly drift in life do so because they have let their fears win for too long. On the other hand, the 2% who are truly successful in life, the non-drifters, place their energy solely in faith and the potential of how much greater their lives could be.
In our inner battle, the force that wins out, even for a moment, ultimately dictates the trajectory of our lives.
Some might say I’m painting an overly dramatic picture of what happened, because on the surface, it doesn’t look like much happened.
Lee trained for a competition and didn’t compete. It happens.
But to think the story ends there would overlook the transformation that happened underneath the surface.
For the first time in 15 years, Lee decided to place his focus on faith, instead of fear, and ask himself, “How great could I be?” instead of “How disappointed might I be?”
After those long 15 years, his sense of determination, hope, and clarity were finally resurrected.
The fear that so often ran his thoughts and decisions were finally put back in their corner, as he pulled the cobwebs off his true nature and his potential.
So, for you, when you look at your own life, your thoughts, and the decisions you make, does faith or fear run the show?
Do you come into the gym excited about the transformation that’s possible within you?
Do you seek opportunities and challenges in your life, that no matter how scary, you know have the potential to propel you into the next level of your life?
Whether you choose to let excitement pull you forward or your fears push you back in life: this is the only decision that will always make the difference.