As Badly as You Want to Breathe

by Nico Scopelliti

All the authors here at WATP write our material and publish our articles on the basis of an assumption:  we assume that you, our readers, are looking to learn and be entertained.

Learning without entertainment is like a technical manual — often necessary, rarely fun. Entertainment without learning is like an action movie — often fun, never necessary. So we assume you want both, and we aim to provide it. We also assume that you want to learn things that will help you succeed. You can read a novel set in Soviet Russia and learn all about spycraft during the Cold War. But while you're learning and entertained, reading that novel may not help you succeed.

Although it would seem to be a value everyone ought to hold dear, not everyone actually wants to succeed. They like the idea of success, and they want the rewards, but are they willing to sacrifice for it?

I have twin 17-year-old nieces. At their age, success in high school is supposed to be their goal. It's what their mom wants for them. It's what their teachers and the school system want for them. It's what society wants for them. It's what they're "supposed" to want. But do they want it? Often, I'm not so sure. If success requires a great deal of effort, or demands sacrifice of something they value (like time spent texting with a boyfriend) then success in high school becomes ever more costly, and they become less likely to be willing to pay. If you have kids or nieces and nephews, you know exactly what I'm talking about. But this dynamic isn't limited to teenagers; what about in ourselves, we adult practitioners with professional careers and bills to pay and families to support? I believe we should often step back and ask ourselves, "How badly do I want to succeed?"

In his video below, former NFL cornerback Eric Thomas is speaking to college students and challenges them with the same question. The obstacles facing a college kid may pale in comparison to ours, but the lesson applies no less to our lives than it does to theirs — and perhaps even more so to ours, since so much more is at stake. This is not an advertisement and I have no personal or business relationship with Eric Thomas. When I make a plug, I do it because I believe the message is important and the author deserves credit for it. So, even if you don't watch the video, you definitely want to at least read the excerpt below. It paints an unforgettable picture and sets the standard for the passionate commitment we should all demand from ourselves.

Lemme tell you a little story. There once was a young man who wanted to make a lot of money. So he goes to a Guru to seek out his advice. He goes to him and says, "I wanna be on the same level as you're on."

The Guru says, "If you wanna be on the same level as I'm on, I'll meet you tomorrow at the beach at 4:00 AM." The young man says, "The beach? I said I wanna make money, I don't wanna swim."

The Guru says, "If you wanna make money, I'll meet you tomorrow. 4:00 AM."

The young man got there at 4:00 AM. He was all ready to rock n' roll. He had put on a suit (should've worn shorts).  The Guru grabs his hands and asks, "How bad do you wanna be successful?"

The young man says,  "Real bad."

The Guru says, "Walk out into the water."

So the young man walks out into the water. As he walks farther he is waist deep in the water. He thinks, What's he got me doing? I didn't come here to swim. I don't wanna be a lifeguard. I wanna make money.

The Guru says, "Don't stop, walk a little farther."

The young man walks a little farther and now he is neck deep in the water. He thinks, Is this man crazy? He may be rich and successful, but he sure is crazy.

The Guru says, "Walk out a little farther." The young man walks out a little farther and now his nose is barely above the water level. He thinks, this guy is out of his mind.

He is about to go back when the Guru says, "I thought you wanted to be successful."

The young man says, "I do."

The Guru walks up to him and says, "Then walk out a little farther."

As the young man begins to walk further into the water the Guru grabs his head and puts him under water. The young man can't breathe now. He starts throwing his hands here and there in desperate attempt to get out of the water. Just before the young man is about to pass out, the Guru pulls him out and says, "I've got a question for you."

(Try to answer this question yourself.)

He asks, "When you were underwater, what did you want to do?"

The young man replies, "Breathe." (What did you answer?)

He told the guy, "When you want to succeed as bad as you wanted to breathe, then you'll be successful."

"Most of you say you wanna be successful, but you don't want it bad. You just kinda want it.  You don't want it as bad as you wanna party. You don't want it as bad as you wanna be cool. Most of you don't want success as much as you wanna sleep. Some of us love sleep more than we love success. And get one thing clear in your head. To become successful you've got to be willing to give up sleep. You've got to be willing to work with three hours or even two hours of sleep. If you really wanna be successful, some days you'll have to stay up three days in a row. Because if you go to sleep you might miss the opportunity to become successful. That's how bad you've got to want it.


"You gotta wanna be successful so bad that you forget to eat. You've got an opportunity to make a dream become a reality and you've got to seize it with everything you've got. Most of you won't be successful because when you study and you get tired you quit. Many of us cry about our hardships. Don't cry to give up, cry to keep going. Don't cry to quit. You're already in pain, you're already hurt, well good, get a reward from it. Don't go to sleep until you succeed. You can be happy, you can jump up, you can be excited if someone gives you money. But you won't be successful until you won't want a dime from anyone to do what you gotta do. You won't be successful until you say, "I don't need that money. I got all I need right here, right in my heart."

"The most important thing is, at any moment, to be able to sacrifice what you are for what you will become. The catch here is at any moment, some of you are only ready to sacrifice when your favorite game is not on. You can make a sacrifice normally, but when your favorite game comes on, for some reason you're just attached to it. Some of you can make sacrifices six days a week. But on Sunday night when "Game of Thrones" is on, you're just hooked. Some of you are addicted to your phone. If a call comes on you're like, I gotta answer it. If I don't answer it I'm gonna die. Get this, some of you:  if you give up your cellphone, you'll be successful. But your cellphone is more important to you than your success. Some of you need to give up your cellphone because the time you spend on your cellphone could be used for your success. The time you should be using to achieve your dreams, you're wasting on your cellphones. Some of you are like, "I'm not good at math." Well you're right, you never studied it before.

"I'm not good at writing." That's because you've never written before. I dare you to fail and write for a whole year to see if you can make it to the end. I dare you to fail. I dare you to take that same class over and over again. I dare you to stop dropping classes. No matter what you've got to go through to get your goal, you're going to survive it. Pain is temporary. It may last for a minute, an hour, a day, or even a year, but eventually it will subside, and something else will take its place. If you quit, however, it will last forever. The problem is you've become soft. You've never felt any pain before. Your parents have done everything for you. Some of you are spoiled brats. Every time you got into trouble, someone from your house got you out of it. Every time you face anything hard, you quit, you call your Ma. I dare you to take a little pain. I dare you not to go home. I dare you to grow up. Many of you say, "I'm feeling bad, I need to go home." Don't throw it. You're not going to die. At the end of pain is success. You're not going to die because you're feeling a little pain. Many of you keep eating like you ate at home. If you keep eating like you ate at home you're gonna be a boy or a girl. It's time to become a man or a woman. So don't worry about a little pain. To be successful you've got to go from external to internal. You've got to give it everything you've got. No more TV, no more parties, no more playing. You've got a 4.0. What you need to be doing is studying. Get off the phone. "I'm sorry I'm not available until the end of this year. You've reached the right number but you've called me at the wrong time. Call me back on January first cuz I'm about to get busy now."

"I want you to have a countdown of your own and when the countdown is over, you say to yourself, "Will the real me please stand up?" Stop being this dropout, stop being the failure, stop giving up, stop disappointing yourself, stop being afraid and be the best you that you can be. It may take ten years to get a degree that normally you could get in four, but guess what? It's doesn't say anywhere on the degree that you took ten years to get it. But go get that degree that you've always wanted, doesn't matter how long you take. At the end of the day you should be exactly where you want to be. You've got to commit your very being to this dream of yours. You've got to breathe it, eat it, sleep it. Until you get to this point, you'll never be successful. But once you get there, I guarantee you the world is for your taking. So work hard and you can have anything that you ever want."

Eric Thomas

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