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Defy Your Circumstances, Redefine Your story.

December 03, 2017

Happy new month, the twelfth and last month of the year.

Today I’d like to start by sharing a trivia question. As you read the transcript below which I got from the Goal Cast YouTube channel, see whether you can try and guess who the story is describing before you actually get to see his name. Here goes...

“My father was a spy and my mother smuggled drugs. They abandoned me when I was six. I was sent to a boarding school and studied martial arts, drama acrobatics and singing. I was an energetic kid, always rolling around like a cannonball, they nicknamed me “Pow Pow”. I didn’t do great at school and failed my first year of primary school. I was beaten for my poor grades. I was tormented by bullies for years because I was too scared to stand up for myself. I was bullied until I prevented a new student from being bullied. By standing up for him, I learned to stand up for myself.

When I graduated, I started working as a stuntman on Bruce Lee movies. I was star struck. I quickly became known for my willingness to do crazy stunt work. After Bruce Lee died, I was the star of a few kung-fu movies. Every one was a failure. I wasn’t able to imitate Lee’s popular martial arts style. Defeated, I left for Hong Kong. I got a job as a construction worker in Australia. Still, I held on to my dreams.  During this time I kept telling myself, “do not let circumstances control you, you change your circumstances”

I returned to film with a new style of filmmaking, combining slapstick comedy and martial arts. Two years later, I had become the highest paid actor in Asia. Still, I had trouble with my new success. People close to me tricked me out of millions of dollars. I used to carry guns and grenades to protect myself from gangs who wanted money from me. Finally, 34 years after my first movie, my movie Rumble in the Bronx became a hit in Hollywood. I was 42 years old.

I have made more than 100 movies in over 50 years. I have broken every bone in my body at least once. I hold the world record for most stunts by a living actor. I once jumped out of a plane and landed on top of a hot air balloon. I speak seven languages. I am a classically trained vocalist and have released more than 20 albums. The only two things that scare me are needles and public speaking. My favorite quote is, Life will knock us down, but we can choose whether or not to stand back up. My name is Jackie Chan, and this is my story.”

Wow! What a powerful summation of the journey of one of the greatest actors of my day! I got hooked to this guy after watching my first ever Jackie Chan movie, “Mr. Nice Guy”. As I was reflecting on how this year has been since it begun, I was reminded of him and the many times he failed but still held on, refusing to give up. As we have read from the story, the roles he plays are very risky roles especially considering that he does his own stunts! He even says how he has broken the bones in his body severally, but he still hasn’t quit doing what he does.  I can only attribute this to one thing; Passion.  

There are many lessons to be learned from Jackie Chan’s story, but to sum everything up I’d like to share one, actually two thoughts with you;

  1. You cannot succeed without the risk of failure and,
  2. You cannot succeed without believing in yourself. 

Everything in life is a potential risk. For instance, what assurances do you have that when you wake up in the morning the ground will still be there for you to step on? It is unquestionable and unwavering faith and confidence that gives you that assurance. So, why not apply that same level of faith to everything else in your life?

Similarly, everything you do in life requires that you believe in yourself because failure to do so means you will not be able to accomplish anything or much in life.

Having pointed out those two thoughts, let me now squeeze out a few other lessons from this story:

Your circumstances don’t have to define you  - Jackie Chan had parents who were morally and socially questionable; they engaged in practices that were not right for the society and in the eyes of the law, but Jackie Chan did not turn out to be like them. He didn’t continue with the “family business-es” but chose his own path which has led him to where he is today. I don’t know about your circumstances, but I will say the same thing I have always said on this column and in many places I have had a chance to speak; your circumstances don’t have to define you. Your circumstances now do not have to dictate your tomorrow. Your circumstances now should give you the push you need to create a new future for yourself. You are bigger than your circumstances; never forget that.

Fail your way to success – the fact that Jackie Chan failed in primary school did not make him a failure in life. If anything, I personally believe that initial failure in his life created in him the determination to succeed in life, to prove to himself that he had more in him than just school grades. He found a “niche” for himself and has stuck with that niche to date. Actually I didn’t even know he could sing! What I know of him is that he is the best stunt-man I have ever seen but if you had told me anything to do with music, I’d have thought you are hallucinating. Which brings me to something else I’ve always said; if you fail in one thing, keep trying the next thing and the next thing until you get what will take you to the next level.  Just go back to the story and read how many more skills Jackie Chan has that you probably didn’t even know he has! He discovered something many people don’t; that every person has more than one talent inside of us. The secret lies in not giving up and not losing hope in life, but trying out different things until you get to what you are best at. Like I already said, believe in yourself and have faith and everything will be just fine for you.

Don’t try to be someone else – when Bruce Lee died, Jackie Chan attempted to replace him but failed big time. Why? Because he was trying to be who he was not. Bruce Lee came to this world with his own talent and with his own destiny embedded in his DNA. That destiny was his alone. When Jackie attempted to be just like him, he failed big time. Later on when he came back with his own unique style of acting, he got it right and ended up being a major success. Today we know Jackie Chan for being Jackie Chan, and not for being Bruce Lee.  What am I saying? I have said it many times in this column that each one of us has a special gift and a special destiny to get to, one that is specifically coded with you in mind. Trying to copy someone else will not take you to your destiny. The greatest gift you can give to yourself is to find your own purpose and follow it through to the end. Like John Grisham in his book The Rainmaker said, “Don’t compromise yourself – You’re all you have”.

Don’t shift your focus from your goal – This is one mistake many people make. Henry Ford said it perfectly when he said, “obstacles are the things you see when you shift your eyes from our goals. When you face challenges in life, do not give up on following your dreams because of those challenges. Instead, find a way of circumventing and overcoming those challenges until you get what you want. When Jackie Chan failed in the several roles he played while attempting to be the next Bruce Lee, he did not entirely shelf his idea of being an actor but instead used a different approach until he got to where he now is. When things don’t work out in your life, do you give up on your goal or do you change your approach to how you achieve your goal?  Your goal is not the problem but your strategy might be. When you focus on your goals, even though you will experience many challenges, you will not be dissuaded because you know exactly what you want to achieve. Instead, you will look for other ways of achieving what you had intended to achieve right from the beginning.

Age is nothing but a number – It took Jackie Chan 34 years to make a hit movie. Prior to Rumble in the Bronx, he had made many other movies but they never made it to the top. What does this teach us? Two things: 1) Consistency pays. If you continue following your dreams no matter how many times you fail or get disappointed, eventually you will achieve your most desired wish. 2) It doesn’t matter how old you are or how long it takes you, if you stay focused on your dreams you will get crowned no matter the age. Have you talked yourself out of following your dreams because you think you are too old? Well, we have people older than Jackie Chan was when he made his first hit movie, who have transcended many obstacles to achieve goals at a very prime age in their lives. Read the story of Colonel Sanders, the man behind KFC who is a perfect example of this.

I could go on and on extracting messages from the Jackie Chan story, but for now I choose to end there. Question to you though; what have you chosen to give up on because of your circumstances? What have you decided to let go because you are looking at the time and realizing that we are in December and yet you have not achieved any of the things you probably thought you will have achieved by now? Listen, it is never too late to follow your dream. You can start today and change the story of your life if you stay focused, determined and unwavering despite the sideshows happening in your life today.

Defy your circumstances. Don’t let them define you.

Be Ignited. Be Inspired. Be Influenced. Become the best version of yourself you can ever be.


PS: This article was originally published in Tanzania's Guardian On Sunday on the 3rd of December, 2017, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words".




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