Climbing the Mountain


Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start. – Nido Qubein

climber / Thiago Rezende

Let’s face it, not everyone is in the same circumstances. Some people come into this world having everything handed to them on a silver platter. The rest of us aren’t quite so lucky. For most of us, there will be at least a few obstacles to overcome before we reach the goals we set for ourselves. Maybe the dream we’re chasing is something that no one in our family has ever done, or no one from our neighborhood, or even from our town. It could even go deeper than that. Maybe no one from our particular ethnic, racial, or cultural group has ever done what we want to do. Does that automatically doom us to failure? Of course not, and do not ever allow yourself to think that, just because no one from your (insert circumstance here) has done what you want to do, that somehow means you won’t be able to do it either, because it simply ain’t so! (Sorry. A little of my Midwest slipped in there.)

Have you ever heard of a man named Daniel Ruettiger? His dream was to attend the University of Notre Dame. The problem? No one in his family had ever attended Notre Dame and he was dyslexic. He spent his first two years of college at Holy Cross, trying to get accepted to Notre Dame. He was rejected three times, but didn’t give up. Finally, his dream came true, and he enrolled in Notre Dame. He had achieved his dream. End of story. Right?

Not quite.

Now that he was a Notre Dame student, he wanted to play football for the Fighting Irish. The problem this time? He stood 5 feet, 6 inches tall and weight 165 pounds. Not exactly the picture that comes to mind when you think of a Notre Dame football player. But that didn’t stop him. He put everything he had into it, made the scout squad, and finally, on November 8, 1975, he ran out onto the field as a Notre Dame football player for the last game of the 1975 season against Georgia Tech. Afterwards, the players carried him off the field, one of only two players in history to have that honor. Most people called him Rudy. You may have seen the movie, or maybe even read the book. He has a motivational site called Rudy International, devoted to encouraging others to follow their dreams, just like he did.

How about Liz Murray? Liz was born in the Bronx in 1975 to poverty-level, drug-addicted parents. At the age of 15, her mother died of AIDS, and her father moved to a homeless shelter, leaving her to fend for herself on the streets of New York. It would have been easy for Liz to give up, to just think that what she saw when she looked around was all she would ever have.

That’s not what she did.

Liz determined not to follow in her parents’ footsteps, instead choosing a dream of a normal life, something she had never known. After gaining admittance to the Humanities Preparatory Academy, Liz completed high school in only two years, while still homeless. In 2000, she was selected for a New York Times scholarship, and was accepted into Harvard University. After a hiatus, during which she left school to care for her dying father, she graduated from Harvard in 2009, her dream realized. Liz now declares that her passion is to “help transform the lives of others.” Her story has also been told in a movie, and in her book, Breaking Night.

So what’s the point of these two stories? Simply this: Rudy and Liz are no different than you and I. They both faced what must have seemed like insurmountable odds to make their dreams happen. They refused to allow their “starting point” to be an excuse for not trying. There is no reason that you can’t do the same thing. No matter where you are now, or what your present circumstances are, you can make a choice, right now, to do whatever it takes to overcome the obstacles standing between you and your goals. If you can make that decision, you’ve taken a major step in reaching your dreams.


You can do it.

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