11:46 PM
 Our parents constantly told us, "You can do anything you set your mind to do." I assumed this was what all parents told their children; it was only as an adult that it dawned on me that many people never got such a message from their parents.

This is not to suggest that these empowering words had an instant effect on me. I went from being a straight-A student to one who hated high school, stopped studying, and drifted into college. It was only a few years later that I finally focused my energies, made it into Wharton's graduate division, and got my career on track.

But my parents' words lodged in my brain. I always believed them, even as I spent many years being unwilling to set my mind to do anything ambitious.

Years passed. I learned to aim higher, to be tenacious, to expect more of myself. But nothing came easy. I was founder and CEO of a VC-backed company... that couldn't raise its second round of funding. What hurt the most was when I finally had to admit defeat; I set my mind to succeed, but we failed anyway.

There were other successes. At one company, we went from ten to 150 employees in three years. At another, I built sales of a new product line from zero to $20 million, also in three years.

Here's the puzzling fact: when I succeeded, my resolve wasn't any stronger than when I failed. So what gives?

I have come to realize what this sentence really means, at least in the context my parents intended it:

1.) It's an aspirational phrase, designed to make you realize that the obstacles within you are often more important than any external obstacles. If you can summon enough resolve to overcome your inner obstacles, you can accomplish truly amazing things.

2.) By setting your mind on a task or goal, you can focus your own energies, but you cannot control the world, or change physical laws. You can't fly unaided, or read people's minds.
For this reason, it makes sense to "set your mind" towards goals that you can control. "Running a mile in six minutes" is a better goal than "being the fastest runner in my class," because you can't control what others in your class do.

The main lesson I've learned is the value of believing in yourself and in the power of your own resolve. I've been shocked how many people were not brought up to believe in themselves. This doesn't mean they are not capable of great things; it simply means they don't yet understand how much they could achieve, if only they fully believe in themselves.
If you are such a person, or you know someone like this, take this sentence to heart. It took me a long, long time to get the message, but it is the best gift I was ever given.

You can do anything you set your mind to do."

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