Morgan William is a college basketball player and she is 65. That is not her age, nor is she 6’5” tall. In a game where 75 inches (6’3”) – or more – is common, Ms. William is 65 inches (5’5”) short. As a point guard for the Mississippi State women’s basketball team, she helped lead them into the NCAA championship game the last two years. Notwithstanding that MS lost the final game both years, this small (her nickname, Itty Bitty) woman has been a powerhouse in a game of giants.
Stephen Hawking was an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, author, and Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology within the University of Cambridge. He had a rare early-onset slow-progressing form of motor neuron malfunction, known as Lou Gehrig's disease, that gradually paralyzed him over the decades. This did not stop him from becoming one of the most learned and respected physicists of our day.
What we often consider handicaps are often not understood that way at all by those possessing them. Morgan William and Stephen Hawking are two of many who saw themselves just as gifted and capable as those who were taller or without ALS.
There are two primary factors that determine how we perform in life: attitude and practice. Without an I-am-capable attitude, often nothing will be attempted or little accomplished. Attitude is everything – we live as we think. But even with a super-positive attitude, achievements will often amount to little or nothing without practice. Try to imagine how many hours were spent on the basketball court by Morgan honing her skills. Try to imagine Stephen’s amount of reading followed by concentrated thought that led to his perceptive revelations.
All too often we sell ourselves short. The example of William and Hawking – and many others – encourage us to believe in ourselves and reach for the stars. Chances are that doing this will not result in one competing in a national championship game of some sort or becoming a physics professor at an esteemed university. But life is for the better when we develop and use the talents we have to the best of our ability. Each one of us will be happier, and the world will be a better place.