It’s 80 degrees. The sun is shining. I’m sitting on a beach. On a tropical island. With the people that I care most about. And somehow, it’s taking everything that I have to fight the urge to get up, go back to the hotel room and put in work get better at what I do and change the world.
I don’t know where it came from, but I have a voice in my head that, even on a beach, tells me that I should be doing more. Ever since I was a child, I felt the urge to overachieve and outperform. I set high standards for myself and good was never good enough. The desire to be the best at what I did has been a constant throughout my life. However, the driving force behind that desire has shifted and that’s what I want to talk about. This blog is about how finding “why” has changed my life. In addition to sharing my personal story, the aim of this blog is to help set you on a path to find your “why” and in doing so, help create a stronger and more compelling driving force.
In order to understand what drives me now, I need to create contrast and I will do that with context concerning what drove me “before.” This blog will be broken up into two sections and without further ado, here it is.
When I was a child, I felt the need to impress the people around me. I don’t know how that started, but I felt a constant pressure to succeed and it propelled me into high levels of athletics and academics. Looking back, I can see that I was afraid to let people down by failing to meet the expectations that I imagined they had for me.
I needed to be the best at everything because I feared how it might feel to fall short. I cruised through life at just the right altitude; high enough that I would impress, but low enough that I couldn’t fail. Through my adolescent years, fear was what hid behind high achievement. With few exceptions, I coasted in my comfort zone.
I had a strong desire to do great things but I also had an inclination to avoid challenges because I wasn’t confident that I could rise to the occasion. I wanted to find the border of what I was capable of, but I couldn’t get there because I also wanted to hide from hard things because I feared what failure might say about who I was. I spent more time documenting the things that I achieved than working hard toward the things that were on the outskirts of my preconceived abilities. In short, I was driven by fear to do as well as I could without falling short. I lived on the edge of my potential and I shied away from the struggle that would result in growth.
For anybody who knows me, you know that I work often, that I work hard and that I sacrifice to do so. From the outside looking in, it wouldn’t appear that my desire to do great things has changed; it hasn’t. However, what has changed is the why behind my drive. There was no lightbulb moment, but rather, there was gradual shift that took place through seasons of struggle.
Throughout my childhood I was afraid of things that would set me back. I didn’t like challenges and that is why this next sentence makes me laugh. Just as I felt that I had figured out how to coast, I began to lose my eyesight. During the period of life where I figured out how to avoid the speed bumps, God threw in a complete roadblock forcing me to take a detour through a rough neigborhood. I struggled with everything from school, to sports, from confidence to communication. I felt that life had been turned upside down and in the matter of a few weeks, I went from soaring at a comfortable altitude to times of turbulence and crash landings.
It was almost impossible to understand at the time, but the loss of sight fostered a transition in life where I learned how to fail. I struggled with everything from reading, to making eye contact and everything in between. I couldn’t hit a baseball to save my life and I felt anxious about what the future held for me. I failed over and over and over again, but in time, something amazing happened. It stopped feeling scary. I realized with each failure that the people in my life didn’t look at me any differently, like I imagined they would. Instead, with each fall, someone extended an arm to pick me back up.
Each failure was accompanied by encouragement and praise pertaining to the effort that I put forth. Over time, I began to place less emphasis on the outcome and more emphasis on the process. Failure was teaching me that the process is more important than the product because the process is where we grow. I began to understand that the process is life.
It was through failure that I learned to take it for what it is; feedback. Looking back, I am beyond grateful that I had a support system to encourage me to focus on effort, because it was through that support that I began to embrace that the outcome doesn’t define me. Regardless of the lessons that I began to learn, I continued to struggle with the lack of control that I had over my sight. However, it was that lack of control that created contrast and helped me realize what I could control; my choices.
Regardless of what happened to me, I could always control how I chose to respond. I found the ultimate confidence in trusting that I owned perspective and effort. I might not have had excellent sight, but I could always choose to look at the world in a way that benefitted me. I wasn’t able to wear glasses, but I could always change the lens that I looked at things and write my own story. I could give my best effort despite the circumstance and I could always do the next right thing.
I began to trust that even though I don’t know what will happen to me, everything is happening for a reason, and that reason is for the good of me and those around me. I began to trust that it is what I can control that matters. The more that I failed, the less I feared it. I began to seek out challenges and embrace adversity because it was through those things that I discovered who I was, what I stood for and what drove me.
It is through struggle that I found the courage to no longer fear failure. It is through seasons of darkness that I have come to love the turbulence and crash landings. It is through tough circumstances that I have found a driving force stronger and more enduring than fear.
This is my why.
I know that everybody has their own struggles, most of which, we can’t see. I want to give others hope. I want to be a beacon of light in someone’s darkness and I want to use my struggles to light a path to show others that with faith, relentless effort, selflessness and the right perspective, anything can be done. I want to leave every place better than I found it and I want to use my life as an example for others to follow. Through everything that I do, I want to honor God and live out His will for my life. I want to love Him and walk in His image as a testament to His work in my life. I feel loved and that is what drives me to do all that I do.
The desire to love others and to serve those around me is what pulls me out of bed in the morning. The fear that I once felt has been replaced with a desire to bring value to people and to change the world. I now welcome obstacles and look forward to challenges. I understand that struggle begets strength and I want to show others just how strong they can be.
This post goes out to everyone who is afraid to fail. If you take nothing else away from this post, remember the remainder of this paragraph. There is a lot in this life that is out of your control, but that doesn’t matter. The outcome doesn’t define you, rather, you define you. The process is always more important than the product and it is only through struggle that we can find strength. In all things, do your best, control what you can control, lift others up and have faith that everything in this life is happening for your good, because it is. Endurance comes from believing that your reason (“why”) is greater than your struggle.
Whether I know you or not, I want you to know that I’m here for you. I understand that we all have our own struggles, many of which, we can’t see on the surface. I want to be there for anybody who I can possibly help, even if it’s just listening. I mean that with all of my heart and if you don’t believe me, then here’s my cell: 908-301-6581. You might think I’m crazy, but I think that this is the type of crazy that is just what someone out there needs.
Thank you for taking the time to read.
I appreciate you.
Joe Rinaldi, PT, DPT
P.S. If you picked up on the aviation references, it’s because part of this blog was written on a crowded plane headed to Turks and Caicos for vacation.