Rejection is nothing new, and it comes in all shapes and sizes. What’s important is what you do with it. Take your disappointments and use them as fuel to ignite your passion. Store them away, and when you get the opportunity to overcome them, use those experiences to reach new heights.
Your dreams can become a reality through hard work, faith, and the preparation to grab every new opportunity as they come knocking. Don’t forget that sometimes you have to adjust, adapt and execute a new game plan, but never be afraid to dream, because dreams can become the reality of your existence. Know that challenges can be a friend or foe, it’s all in how you view them.
Use Your Stories
Navigating challenges like racism in Jacksonville, Florida as a young shorty, we were taught how to overcome, how to treat others fairly regardless of how we were treated, and to never give up. These are the things that were instilled in us as kids.
Being a part of a group of young students who were part of integrating a Junior High School in North Jacksonville was a frightening time in our lives, because of the hate we had to endure just for wanting an equal education. When we had the opportunity to change our situation, that’s what we did—even though sometimes it was a living hell.
It’s kind of sad that students who attended that school today know nothing about what we had to endure in order for this dream to become a reality. That’s why, on the hills of Black History Month, it’s important to know where you come from in order to know where you are going. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in life is that nothing good comes easy, so motivation, purpose, and passion are important factors to success—in sports, and in everyday life.
Don’t Stop Trying
I was fortunate to play sports because sports allowed me to experience new things in life. Things that I could only dream about, or see in a magazine or on TV. To be espoused and see how the other side of the track lived was amazing. Attending track meets and playing baseball in other communities and cities; these things opened my eyes to what was possible.
I knew education and sports could be the right combination to get me where I wanted to go. My parents stressed the importance of education. They would say, “Son, once you get it in your head and your heart, that’s when any and everything is possible.”
At home, I watched my parents deal with the ups and downs of life. It also allowed me to see how they dealt with disappointments. I saw everything that they had to overcome—that my family had to overcome—and how they did that through their faith, patience, determination, and respect for others.
My father was the first Black salesperson at J. C. Penney in Jacksonville, and when word got out bout his position, people would come from all over to shop with him. He was the leading salesperson for years. Customers would wait—sometimes after the store had closed—to check out with my father because they understood the more he sold, the more he made. We talk about pioneers in the NFL, but he was a pioneer in his own world. It taught me a lot about staying resilient, staying faithful, and to keep moving forward every day.
Learning about myself has been a lifelong process, and it doesn’t end. Every experience is an opportunity to reflect on my motivation and the things driving me to continue. When you can identify those motives, that’s where you’ll find out what keeps you striving toward the next goal and remembering to Never Give Up.