“Never forget where you came from.” Most of you have heard this line before, and your reaction may have been to roll your eyes. Maybe, for you, as for me, that phrase hits home when you think back ten or twenty years ago and realize that’s the reason you are where you are today. I think about that phrase and see both sides. I understand the overstated innuendo behind it, but I can also accept the true meaning.
True meaning might be different for everyone. The underlying recognition of that phrase is humility. Remembering where you come from isn’t strictly about the location, although that might be important, or the significant people who flooded it. It’s about the mentality you had at that stage in your maturation. For example, what did you sacrifice? How did you prove you worked the hardest? With whom did you surround yourself? How did you spend your time?
I want to provide insight to those questions using my own experience. The answers directly apply to where I am today as a soccer player, but even more importantly as a human being.
I am from Plano, Texas, a suburb about twenty minutes north of Dallas. To be honest, I experienced an ideal suburban upbringing that granted me much good fortune, thanks to my parents. To be even more candid, my utopian youth didn’t necessarily prepare me for what would come. The real world: a place where adversity tests one’s adaptability; where a truly balanced mentality is perfected.
Think about some hallmark success stories off the top of your head. Particularly in sports, they usually begin with some sort of hardship by which an individual is grounded, and then through perseverance they meet triumph.
Now, you might object to this example and say, “well, not everyone has to struggle before they succeed.” Let me agree with you. Not all stories have that volatile “rags to riches” glamour. Some look more like mine, a road paved with both needs and wants, habitually provided. Certainly nothing is wrong with that. No matter the journey or level of difficulty, if the proper mentality is maintained, everything else will unfold, as it should. The common denominator is always between your ears.
Let’s go back in time. I want to dig up my youth soccer career and quickly and chronologically proceed until we reach today’s date.
If I recall correctly, I was never without a soccer ball. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but you understand the picture I’m painting. My life revolved around that ball. No weekends free. Weeknights filled with an hour commute to and from training, and if I wasn’t on the field, the streetlights became my audience. My love for the game was my reason not to do anything else. Anyone who is involved in youth soccer today knows the pace of this commitment. It’ll take over your life, but if you’re serious about soccer, those nights are what differentiate you from others more interested in instant gratification…those who aren’t as disciplined and dedicated.
Nights when my peers were playing video games, partying, or watching TV, I was playing soccer. I gave up summer vacations for soccer tournaments. I had to manage my friendships. I didn’t have my driver’s license while everyone else had a brand new car. Overall, my high school experience wasn’t the type to show up in movies, and most of my friends didn’t understand my drive and the sacrifices I was willing to make.
At times, I didn’t fully appreciate my work ethic either. What was I doing? Would I regret missing out on this stuff? I was setting myself up for success the best I knew how, always compelled to go the extra mile. Eventually, the continuous passion and sacrifices I made for the game I loved fiercely (and somewhat blindly), led to a college soccer scholarship. Later, it provided me opportunities to live in places like Chicago, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati - cities that I never thought I would even visit.
You can see my story isn’t emotionally draining, and it doesn’t trouble me to share it. I didn’t have tremendous pitfalls or life altering happenings, but what I gained from the daily “dedication grind” was the mental capacity to deal well now when presented with the challenging and difficult moments that are inevitable. My advice, whatever your situation, is to do the work and then some. Make the sacrifices, and when the time comes, you’ll understand why. You will be equipped for successes and for failures.
The next time someone mentions the phrase, “never forget where you came from,” take it as a compliment. You could be in a position to put your city on the map, to make your family proud. To be on your way to a dream fulfilling achievement. Will you choose to remember and implement what it takes to get there? Do you have the resolve and determination? I hope so, because that’s what you’re going to need at the next level. Not everything is going to be easy, even the most gifted must be willing to do the work. You will take wrong turns, disappointment will periodically knock on your door, but your response to those negatives will shape the future. I’ll leave you with another short phrase that reminds me to go forth. “Alas, even the false steps.”