The Dutch have a very uplifting saying that goes like this:
“If you were born a dime, you’ll never be a quarter.”
I’ve always hated this saying because it’s very fatalistic, like: “You’ll never amount to anything. You were born poor and you will die poor.”
You may say: “Well, these are only words. Words are harmless.” But where I come from, generations of girls grew up thinking their role in life would be to be a mother, raising children and supporting a husband at home.
Generations of girls grew up believing they’d never have an academic career. They’d never be a CEO, a minister, or a politician. They believed words, until…
BECOMING WHAT YOU BELIEVE
It’s not just an old-fashioned mindset that is keeping people from living up to their full potential. Right now, in 2022, there are plenty of people who suffer from low self-esteem. People who have been programmed by their parents or by significant others to believe that they are dimes, never destined to become quarters.
Some people are very good at talking themselves into thinking they’re not worth very much. It quickly becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I used to have these voices in my head. The silly thing was, I always did very well in school, I had a talent for music and writing, and from the outside my life was pretty perfect. But to me, that didn’t matter. I didn’t see myself the way others saw me.
I had a lot of growing up to do before I realized that I was limiting myself because of my own expectations and self-image. When I was 17 years old, my love of music made me crawl out of my shell, to study conducting. Part of me was terrified of standing in front of an orchestra waving a baton, but I had this irresistible urge to do it anyway.
BECOMING A SEMI-CONDUCTOR
I started preparing myself in a small and safe group, and discovered I had a good feel for rhythm and a steady beat. Even better, when I was conducting, I was totally absorbed by the music, and forgot to be self-conscious. When I wasn’t focused on myself, I could let myself go and have fun!
Finally, the day came where all the students got an opportunity to be in front of a real orchestra. Everybody was nervous. Practicing in a small group was one thing, but conducting an orchestra of strangers for the very first time…. Oy Vey!
My inner self-doubting voice worked overtime to convince me to bail out. “If you don’t take part, you cannot fail,” it whispered seductively. “Protect yourself. Run away. There’s still time.”
But another part of me woke up that night, and said: “You can DO this. You’re well-prepared. This is your chance. If you don’t take a shot, you’ll always miss the target. I have faith in you!”
And before I had time to make up my mind, someone called my name and it was my time to lead the orchestra.
That night I discovered that the best way to beat that self-doubting, denigrating voice, is to forget your fears and DO IT ANYWAY.
I walked up to the orchestra, introduced myself, and gave the upbeat. And when the downbeat came, they all started together (which is usually a good sign ;-). As soon as I heard the first notes, the music and my muscle memory took over and I had a blast. I never wanted it to end!
But before I knew it, it was time for me to stop, and when I left the podium, the orchestra applauded. Wow! At that moment, my self-doubt melted away like the last snow on the first day of spring.
Sometimes you don’t know you can do it, until you do it.
EXPERIENCE AS TEACHER
I never knew I could be a good father, until I became one.
People told me I would never make it as a Dutch voice over in the USA, and look at me now!
They told me publishing a book was a waste of time and money. I proved them wrong.
Part of me thought I’d never find the right partner to share my life with, and I’ve been happily married for many years.
Some said I wouldn’t be able to recover from my stroke, and yet, I did!
So, what’s the lesson?
Even if you think you can’t do it…. do it anyway.
Dimes can become quarters if you make the right investment. And you know what? Quarters become dollars, and dollars accumulate… until you’re left with a small fortune.
Where you start in life doesn’t matter.
What you make of it, does.
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
Joshua Alexander says
I just want to linger on the first point in this article and affirm you. You, my friend, were born a thousand-dollar bill. I mean it. I super-duper appreciate you. 🙂
Paul Strikwerda says
The world we see is a mirror of who we are!
Steve Krumlauf says
Yet another well-crafted, verbal kick in the pants. A good reminder that had you written that seventeen years ago, Paul, and I was able to show that to our oldest daughter, (music education major and high school band director), she might still be conducting music. She was awesome in her prime!
Paul Strikwerda says
Sometimes even the most talented of kids change course. I never became the professional musician I thought I would be, and I’m okay with that. Music never left my life, and in some ways I enjoy it even more because I don’t have to make a living as an instrumentalist.
Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt says
I am one of those girls.
I grew up in Mexico, where girls don’t do things. I earned a degree in physics, and then an MS and PhD in Nuclear Engineering from UWisconsin-Madison.
I worked – three years at Johns Hopkins, and then almost ten at the Princeton U. Plasma Physics Lab, doing what I loved: the bridge between computational and experimental physics.
Then I came down with (at a physics meeting, for irony’s sake) with a disease that kept me from doing anything in the real world for three decades. So I turned myself into a novelist.
I still hear the voices, but even at the pace of a snail, I’m about to publish the second novel in my mainstream trilogy – I have a few scenes left to write.
You just can’t quit – even if your dreams change a lot along the way. Nobody cares, not really, if you win or lose – but YOU do.
Paul Strikwerda says
Novelists teach us about the power of words and the power of imagination, one book at a time. Best of luck completing your second novel. It’s a testament to your resiliency!
Mark Ballou says
Dave Johnston says
Good early morning Paul, trust this finds you well. Really enjoyed this blog. The first thing I thought was you always hear, could you please break change with this dollar. Believing in oneself truly does bring change. Moving through fear and doubt puts us in the cash flow of accomplishment. Wishing you only the best of successes in this New Year of 2022.
Paul Strikwerda says
Thank you so much, Dave. All the best to you for this new year!