Fight Before Flight
Last week I delivered the keynote address at convocation for the University of Guelph-Humber. Recognizing that it is graduation time for many across the country, I will share the message with you. Maybe it can be used to encourage a young person in your life who is graduating right now.
When you begin a task you usually start somewhere at the bottom, a far cry from the position of dominance and seniority that you are leaving. I left university as one of the top football players in the country. I was drafted 26th overall to the Edmonton Eskimos and expected to carry-on my university success into the professional ranks. I knew it would be different, I had been told what to expect by players who were mentoring me over the past few years, but because I had not experienced it myself, I was not privy to the fight that I was in for.
As a dominant university player, I knew the game and my opponents inside and out. I had four years of experience so the game moved slower for me, I knew what to expect and had a pretty good formula for success. This changed in the pros. I was a rookie. I didn’t know much about the schemes, I was exposed to a new training schedule in a new city, and presented with a variety of opponents day-to-day. I was athletically on par with most, but mentally untrained. The game was much faster. As I threw myself into the ring of success in this new environment, I found myself in a fight.
The fight wasn’t external. I wasn’t throwing out fists to beat someone for a spot on the team. Rather it was internal. Sometimes in a form of a voice, asking, “do you really think you belong here?” “have you made a plan in case you fail?”
I parallel this to the fight of a butterfly emerging from the cocoon. In the final stages of metamorphosis, the caterpillar turns into a butterfly in the cocoon, but it must fight its way out to fly free. In a study I found, they split a number of cocoons into two groups. The first group was left to become butterflies naturally, while the second was given help. The experimenter used a scalpel to make slits in the cocoon so it would be easier for the butterfly to emerge. When the butterflies emerged from the first group, they took longer, but escaped the cocoon and flew away as beautiful butterflies. However, when the butterflies from the “helped” group emerged, they fluttered around for moments, and then crashed to the ground and died, for their wings did not have the strength to keep them up.
When you go through the process of newness, the adventure of the unknown; when you finish one level and go onto the next, there is a fight. A fight to overcome the fears and anxieties inside of you, a struggle to build new relationships, a battery of tests that must be passed in order to move from beginner to mastery. For some it’s figuring out life after school, for others it may be arriving at a new job in a new city. Whatever the case may be, I encourage you to embrace the fight. The butterfly must struggle inside of the cocoon so that it builds its muscles, making it strong enough to handle the outside environment. It has to fight before it takes flight. In the same way, you and I must exercise our character muscles to build resilience. We must face our challenges with the help of others so that when we advance to the next level, we are equipped to be our best and soar.
Fight before flight