We all want to experience success, don’t we? Whether it’s in sports, in school, or in work of any kind, no one wants to fail. And while we’d prefer it if success came easily, it doesn’t normally work that way. In fact, it almost never does.
Whether you like it or not, struggle is necessary for success. It’s true. I’ve learned this first hand. So today I want to tell you about three life experiences when I struggled, and how they led to future success.
First, a personal example. Many of you know that I recently got married to the woman of my dreams. What many of you don’t know, however, is the struggle that came in the years before. Without going into too much detail, a few years ago I was in a relationship that I thought had potential. Things were going great and I was excited for our future. However, a few months in I found out that I was being lied to, manipulated, and used. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I ended that relationship and it left me with a feeling of frustration and disdain. But instead of hopping into another relationship, I took time to be by myself. Time to figure out what was important to me and what wasn’t. Time to grow as a man and as the husband I desired to be. It was hard and draining, but it paid off. A little while later I met the woman who is now my wife and I couldn’t be happier. But if it wasn’t for that situation—for that struggle—I would not be the man or husband I am today.
I’ve had my professional struggles too. As many of you also know, I broke my fibula last season in a game against the New Orleans Saints. I’ve gone on and on and on about how this situation has helped me grow as a person but what I haven’t talked too much about is how it helped me grow as a football player.
Injuries give you a new perspective on life, especially when you can return healthy. In the football world, it’s like one of those near-death experiences when your whole life flashes before your eyes. In this case, it was my football life. In an instant, every snap I had played that game flashed before my eyes. I thought about what I could have done better, how I should have taken more chances, and trusted my ability. I vowed that when I returned I would take those chances, believe in myself, and play with reckless abandon.
Well, that time has come. And the timing could not be better. This season is going to be great. And the main reason for that stems from my “near death” football experience. I was given a second chance and you better believe I’m gonna make the most of it.
Finally, I want to share about an academic struggle. I graduated from the University of Texas as a business major in the honors program, but at one point I got kicked out of the program. You see, the honors program required that I maintain a 3.25 GPA. But my first semester coincided with football season, which meant I was up at 6am every morning lifting with the team before class. I thought I could carry both loads like I had in high school, but I was wrong. I got an A, a B, and a C in my three honors classes, which didn’t cut it. I was out of the program.
But fortunately, that isn’t the end of the story. I appealed that decision, not once but twice! The first time I appealed, I gave excuses. None of them were accepted. The second time around I vowed to make actual change, and I did. I signed up for tutoring, took my homework with me as our team traveled week to week, and I spent time actually LEARNING all of the material, rather than just trying to get by.
Needless to say, these changes paid off. I finished with over a 3.6 GPA, won the Campbell Trophy and other awards, and was named to Sporting News’ 20 Smartest Athletes list (a distinction my friends still rightly insist is up for debate).
But despite these successes, what fueled my fire was the storm. All along it has been the struggle that has led to true success. This narrative has been the story of my life, and if you look back, I bet it’s been the story of yours too. Nothing worthwhile that you’ve ever earned has come easily. Growth involves change, and change is hard.
So my challenge to you is this—next time you’re in what seems to be a hopeless situation, write down your own story. Think back on the times in your life that seemed impossible, the times when you had a choice between accepting defeat or continuing to struggle. And if you chose to keep fighting, write down how it paid off.
Maybe you’re in a time of struggle right now. If you are, I’m asking you to persevere. It may not feel like it today, but this struggle is the main ingredient to your future success.