“There’s no risk when you go after a dream. There’s a tremendous amount of risk to playing it safe.”
When we’re kids, we’re told, “You can do anything.” However, somewhere along the way, we start receiving other messages. We are told to be realistic. We are given cookie-cutter paths to follow. We are presented with the very real needs of providing for ourselves and our families. We see societal norms and feel that we need to do what everyone else is doing. Sure, there are success stories- stories of people who followed their dreams and accomplished amazing feats. However, I never believed I could be one of those people. I kept hearing that little whisper “be realistic” in my head.
When I started Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, it was love at first sight. I wanted to train all the time, and I was on the mats as much as I possibly could be. I was also finishing up a teaching degree at the time. As I progressed over the years, I began competing very actively and balanced my training with my career as a classroom teacher. As my skill and success in Jiu-Jitsu grew, I had several people ask me if I ever considered doing Jiu-Jitsu full time. My answer was always something like, “Oh, that would be so cool, but I don’t know if it’s realistic.” I had the passion and the work ethic, but I didn’t believe in myself. Being a full-time athlete was for special people, not for me. I was afraid of leaving my comfortable, socially acceptable lifestyle and taking a risk.
I’ve held myself back a lot in life because of fear. Fear of failure. Fear that I’m not good enough. Fear of taking a risk, of trying, and then falling flat on my face. I allowed the fear to win for a long time. However, I finally realized that my fear of failure was overshadowed by the fear of regret if I never tried. I didn’t know if I would succeed or not. I didn’t know if I would be able to provide for myself. I only knew that I loved this sport and I would always regret it if I didn’t give it a shot. So I gave it everything I had. I packed up my belongings, left everything behind, and moved to California to train and compete full-time. Almost three years later, I’m still living my dream. It isn’t easy. I work very hard, and there are plenty of tear-filled days. However, even on the tough days, I have never regretted my decision to be brave and take a risk. I get to do what I love every single day, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
It’s easy to play it safe. It’s comfortable. Comfort feels great, but it doesn’t push us to be the best that we can be. It doesn’t make us grow. The bigger the risks, the more chances for failure. However, with greater risk comes greater reward. It is one of the most liberating feelings in the world to realize that it’s okay to fail. To try, fail, and realize that it didn’t break you. You can pick yourself up and keep moving forward. If you try, you might fail. If you never try, you’re not even giving yourself a fighting chance. And when you succeed, it will feel all the more amazing for the struggle it took to get there.
Everyone has different dreams and goals in life. Your dream doesn’t have to be the same as mine or anyone else’s. But if there is one thing I have learned along this journey, it’s to dream big. Don’t limit yourself based on what seems realistic or what someone else tells you. If you want something, go for it. Fight for it. Dare to believe in yourself, and you just might surprise yourself.