My experience has taught me that you cannot value dreams according to their odds of coming true. Their real value is in stirring within us the will to aspire. That will, wherever it finally leads, does at least move you forward. And after a time you may recognize that the proper measure of success is not how much you’ve closed the distance to some far-off goal but the quality of what you’ve done today.
— Sonia Sotomayor

We Cannot Become Ourselves by Ourselves

Recently I listened to several audios produced by in which someone made the statement, “We cannot become ourselves by ourselves.” It made me pause and I thought, “How true! “

We all know the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child” but that truth does not end with childhood. The myth of being a self-sufficient individual can be crippling. We all need a support team around us to truly shine. We need people to mentor us and encourage us, people who love our imperfections, people with opposite strengths to cover for us and with different values to help us define ours.

My first read of the summer was a wonderful example of this.  My Beloved World, a memoir written by Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic justice on the United States Supreme Court, follows her journey from the bleak projects of the Bronx, to the elite completely foreign world of the Ivy League, and ultimately all the way to the highest court in the country.  She appreciatively gives great credit to all the mentors who appeared at each significant juncture in her life. But I was struck by her uncommon ability to ask for help. At a very early age, she had the dream to become a judge, but she also clearly recognized the overwhelming challenges she would have to surmount. Sotomayor had the amazing ability to recognize “This is what I want and this is what I need to learn to get there.”  

It started in the fifth grade, when she noticed that no matter how hard she worked, some kids always got higher grades. So she approached the smartest girl in the class and asked her to teacher her how to study. The critical lesson she learned that day, “Don’t be shy about making a teacher [out] of any willing party who knows what he or she is doing. In retrospect I can see how important that pattern would become for me: how readily I’ve sought out mentors. Asking guidance from professors or colleagues and in every friendship soaking up eagerly whatever that friend could teach me.”

Taking heed that this similar message came to me from these two sources this month, I’ve reset my priorities to:

1. Surround myself with people who can teach me what I need to learn. I’ve had numerous important mentors in my journey and I need to continue seeking them each step of the way. Experience has taught me, “Ask and the right person will appear.”

2. Pass it on! Recently I had the very rewarding experience of volunteering as a mentor to new coaches and I learned so much in the process. Mentoring is always a win/win.

3. Approach every challenging situation and every person in my path with the attitude, “What do I need to learn here? What can this person teach me?”

Happy trails and happy summer reading!