Don’t judge a book…

You’ve probably already completed the phrase in your mind – yet how often are we still guilty of it?

This was brought home to me quite sharply recently as I watched a documentary about a famous figure. They have been in the spotlight for years, yet until this point I actually knew very little about their backstory.

To illustrate, let’s play a little game of ‘Who Am I?’ Let’s see if you can work out who this is by the time you have read the following seven statements:

  • I was born in one of the poorest areas of my home country.
  • My parents were so poor that my mother tried to deliberately abort me through drinking and running against medical advice; she couldn’t afford to care for the children she already had.
  • I swept the streets as a young boy to raise money to support my family.
  • To get the education I needed, I had to leave my family and move away when I was just eleven years old.
  • I needed heart surgery at fifteen to save my life.
  • My father was an alcoholic and died when I was twenty.
  • I now spend a lot of my time and income supporting charities and people in need.

Have you worked it out yet?

The figure is none other than the five time Ballon D’Or winner, three-time Champions League winner and European Championship-winning squad member, Cristiano Ronaldo. Arguably amongst the greatest players ever to kick a football.

It’s easy to look at all those trophies and assume it was laid out on a platter from day one. Perhaps he was naturally gifted, yes, but the opportunities certainly weren’t there to begin with. All the success came through hard work, sacrifice and heeding excellent mentorship.

I’ve often considered him to be arrogant, tempestuous and petulant. However, my perception was altered as a result of the documentary. He is fiercely competitive, driven and demands nothing but the best from himself. The persona is one of the utmost confidence in himself and a belief that anything is possible. When you’ve started where he did and reached the heights he has, what would stop anyone feeling the same way?

There is a temptation to believe that we do not have the capacity for success. Everyone else seems to have it better, more together, or an easier path. More money, more connections, more knowledge, more opportunities. Perhaps, in some cases, that might be true.

However, there is a frighteningly common trend amongst the world’s most successful people. They have character. They work hard. They suffer tremendous adversity and develop the resilience to learn its lessons. They don’t give up. They do not accept less than their best. They sacrifice for their dreams. They seek guidance from excellent mentors. They are dedicated. They study, practise and apply. They learn from both victories and defeats.

If we all trained as hard and as often as Cristiano Ronaldo at our own dreams, we’d certainly be further along, wouldn’t we? It’s just too easy to spend sixty minutes watching the next episode than it is to pick up a book and study. Whether it’s becoming a better speaker, runner, musician, computer programmer, dancer, photographer, linguist, you name it – small daily habits make a world of difference. Perhaps, someday, you might be holding your own Ballon D’Or.

Cristiano, I’m sorry I misjudged you. You’ve every right to be proud of what you’ve done. Thank you for teaching us there is no substitute for discipline and consistency over time. Keep up the good work inspiring everyone to work for their dreams; you’ve certainly taught us all a lesson.

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