But What’s Being Built?

Letters to My Future Competitor, Podcast

Dear Competitor

My nephew has been struggling in school lately. He battles ADHD as I did, and I know he’s gotten frustrated by how long it’s taken him to get some concepts. I can relate. You just want to bang your head against a wall when a subject isn’t “clicking.”

He came in town this weekend with his family, and I wanted to encourage him. I got him a TCU football t-shirt with the words Built. Not Born. It was the perfect message I wanted to share with him.

I wrote him the following letter that I hope also encourages you – and your young Competitor – too.

Hey buddy,

I wanted to get you this shirt because I love the message of “Built. Not Born” – and I think it’s very important. It’s one I talk about a lot in my work every day.

It’s easy for us in life to make two small mistakes:

  1. We rely on our natural ability – how “smart” or “athletic” we naturally are in order to help us succeed. We think the skills we are born with are the most important to determining how high we can go in life.
  2. We worry that any learning disabilities, attention disorders, or challenges we face will forever hinder us.

One thing I learned in my 20s that I wish I’d known at your age is this simple scientific fact:

Our natural talent is great – but the most important thing about us is what we choose to develop and build.

Like playing video games, we can continue to level up and improve how well we play by trying things, working through the difficult levels, and building our skills in school, in sports, in video games, and in life by working them over and over again.

There’s a lot of kids in school who may seem smarter or more talented than you right now. When I was your age, there were a lot of kids more talented than me. I thought that meant I’d never move past them in grades or in life.

And I was wrong.

What I know now – what I’ve learned as an adult – is that success in the big picture is about what we choose to build.

That on the days we get beat in Fortnite, we choose to learn how we got beat so we can play better next time.

That on the days we struggle in a class, we choose to put in some extra work so we can better understand the subject.

That on the days we feel angry or like no one understands us, we choose to work on building a positive attitude.

Just like you’ve continued to pay attention, put in work, and grow in your youth group at church, you’ve got the same opportunity to continue building your brain, your strength, and your skills in life.

I want you to not only cheer for my team when you wear this, but I want you to be constantly reminded that the most important thing you can do is to focus on building the skills you want to be great at.

  • Fishing
  • Math
  • Fortnite
  • Football

You name it. Just focus on working at it. When you get frustrated, continue to work at it. And when you start to have success with it, keep working at it.

It’s not about what we’re naturally born with that matters – it’s what we choose to build.

And winners choose to build themselves up every day. I’m proud of you. Keep competing

– Jake

Last modified: October 17, 2019

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