When I was a boy growing up in my rural Ohio town, I wanted to become a professional football player. My dad had been one, so I figured why not follow in the old man’s footsteps. Every Saturday and Sunday, I watched college and NFL players on TV and seeing their successes motivated me to run more wind sprints, practice more football drills and dream more about the moves I would show on the playing field when my time to shine arrived.
Unfortunately, I never sniffed a college playing field, let alone a professional one. Time to find a new dream, I suppose.
As an adult, I now want to make public speaking an integral part of my life. I’m obsessed with TED Talks and spend hours in front of my computer each week watching speeches on different subjects and scribbling notes into my notebooks for how to improve the delivery of my message. Much like I did when emulating my favorite players during backyard football games, I now imitate and incorporate some of the behaviors of my favorite speakers.
But there’s more.
I love watching TED Talks for the range of emotions they inspire. Some speeches have motivated me to keep writing my book through the days when everything out of my brain felt like slop. I’ve watched other talks and found myself feeling more socially engaged and interested in the lives of the world around me. Finally, there are others that are so thought-provoking that I find myself challenged to become a more creative and inspired thinker.
Recently, I watched a short TED Talk given by Candy Chang, titled: Before I die I want to… In the video, Candy describes how she transformed an abandoned home in her New Orleans’ neighborhood into a chalkboard prompting visitors with one question: Before I die I want to ___. In her words, “anyone walking by can pick up a piece of chalk, reflect on their lives and share their personal aspirations in a public space.”
Only one word can describe Candy’s message: Wow.
After reflecting on Candy’s words, I decided to make my own “Before I die I want to” list. I expect this list to change over the years, but for right now here is what I want to do before I die:
- I want to see my name as the author of at least one non-fiction and one fiction book on a shelf in a bookstore. Any bookstore.
- I want to pick up the bar tab with my daughter or son during a “dad’s” weekend visit to see them in college.
- I want to complete volunteer trips in North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Asia.
- I want to win the “Rob Lytle Memorial Badminton Tournament” my friend hosts every year. Ironically, this is probably the goal I have the least chance of achieving. During my last tournament appearance, my teammate and I lost our only two matches and spent the rest of the afternoon complaining about inclement weather and poor field conditions. Like professional football, my hopes of a badminton career are futile at best.
- I want to start a non-profit designed to encourage others to pursue their passions by overcoming the daunting task of worrying over where to begin and making the choice to “start somewhere.”
One of my greatest fears is the fear of other people seeing me fail. And one of the worst results of this fear is that it has kept me from setting goals. Whenever I think about what I hope to accomplish, I worry not just that I won’t achieve it, but also that other people will judge me negatively based on my goals (I call this the “what if my goals aren’t good enough for everyone else” fear). The result of having these concerns is that I’ve found it easier to hide my aspirations rather than risk falling short of them and letting others see me fail.
Candy’s message has helped inspire me to worry less about how I will achieve my goals, and how they will be judged, and focus on having the courage to take the first step and set them. Instead of running from what I want, I will run towards it—clearing unknown obstacles that interfere with my progress along the way. Wasting time worrying about failing before I even start trying can happen another day.
Now that you have listened to Candy’s speech, and know what I want, please share what you want before you die.