I had a front row seat to a miracle

What do you have in common with a junior high flunkee?
At 12, Jose was failing in school. He couldn’t read, write, or do math. Not just sort of. Not at all.

He was living in a dangerous neighborhood trying to be the man of the house. His father had abandoned the family (mom, Jose, and two younger sisters) when Jose was 8, and they struggled in extreme poverty.

People predicted his failure.
Jose’s 8th-grade math teacher told him he’d never graduate high school. A doctor suggested that Jose’s difficult birth might have caused “brain damage.” His Mom should just accept Jose wasn’t going to get better.

Then, Jose embarked an 11-year, self-induced miracle.
Jose decided he didn’t like the stories others were telling about his future, and he chose a new one.

This Saturday, he takes the next step in his miraculous journey. He will receive his undergraduate diploma from Xavier University. Then he’ll move to DC to lobby Congress for Immigration Reform.

You’re more like Jose than you might think.
Don’t be deceived by the external circumstances. The principles Jose applies to live his miracle are relevant to anyone who hopes there is still something better within them.

What’s the better version of you waiting for a miracle?
Jose still teaches me about the limitless depth of the human spirit and the true meaning of grit. Why not apply Jose’s lessons to create your own miracles?

Isn’t a miracle just a possibility that exists beyond our beliefs of what could be, anyway?

I had a front row seat to this miracle.
Jose was my Little Brother in Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Something started happening: a miracle that fueled a miracle.
As Jose told people what he was trying to do, people started stepping up for him in miraculous ways. Almost out of thin air, random people started offering tutoring, guidance, connections, sometimes even money.

It happened so often that I gave it a name: Equipo Jose (Team Jose.) It does take a village, and Jose attracted his just as you can.

Lessons from a flunkee.
Here are two of many lessons I learned from watching Jose. Please steal them shamelessly.

  1. People can’t resist an underdog who’s doing the work.
  2. Mind over matter is not just a cliché.

I’ll write about Lesson 1 here and about Lesson 2 in my next post.

Lesson #1: People can’t resist an underdog who’s doing the work. Why?
Nothing is more intoxicating for humans than to live our own life full-out . . . yet, it’s surprisingly difficult to do. There are so many things that stop us, mostly self-created.

Therefore, when we do encounter someone who is truly going for it without caution, in spite of terrible odds, we are drawn to them. Vitality is magnetic.

We know it in our gut.
Being around a person who is living fully-expressed stirs something in us to life, and we like that feeling.

(Caveat: Jose had plenty of detractors along the way, most of whom were close to him. He started defying their pre-formed images of him. Perhaps his unlikely blips of success revealed that they’d given up on themselves too soon? “Get back in your box, young man! You’re making me uncomfortable.”)

How can you attract miraculous levels of support?
There are two factors that seemed to influence people’s attraction to Jose. You’ll need BOTH of these to draw support for your big dreams.

Factor A. How generous is your stretch?
As the likelihood of success nears “impossible,” support grows exponentially.

Jose’s stretch goal wasn’t just to learn to read. He wanted to become the Martin Luther King of immigration reform.

Ridiculous, right? Or is it ridiculously inspiring to know someone who dreams that big, not just for himself but also to help others?

We are drawn to people who are borderline naive about their chances for success but who still stay committed.

One of Steve Jobs’ greatest gifts was what people called his “reality distortion field.” In spite of common sense, he believed ridiculous things were possible. Meanwhile, the people close to Jobs often wanted to throttle him.

Yet, there are few who could light up the human spirit like he could.
Jobs wasn’t just pushing the frontiers of technology. He was generously reminding all of us of our own limitless potential by brazenly looking beyond “accepted” limitations. THAT is attractive.

Factor B. How hard are you working for it?
You know plenty of big dreamers who tell you they’re going to change the world . . . as they stuff their face with Cheetos and binge watch Friends reruns.

What differentiated Jose from the other 99% was that he backed it up with hard work.

In addition to playing the demanding “man of the house” role to look out for his family as his culture expected of him, he worked hard — before, after, and in between — to hone his skills as a student, storyteller, advocate, and lobbyist.

As people began to see how hard this dreamer was working, Equipo Jose came to life.

Sometimes people who’d just met him volunteered their support. At a deep level, he was reminding them of their own limitless potential. And that was worth investing in.

I am one of those people he drew in. I love a good underdog. Don’t you?

Whiners don’t draw us in.
When I first met Jose, he told a “poor me” story about his tough lot in life. No one was impressed.

Eventually, inspired by his mom’s tenacity to fight against the odds, his story morphed into “I’ve got big work to do.”

Then, he backed it up with hard work. THAT was when the supporters started showing up.

Now, it’s your turn to live bigger and brighter.
How can you apply Jose’s teachings, today?

Factor A. What’s the big stretch you’re sitting on? Your ridiculous, generous dream.
If it’s big, it’s going to be something you’re almost embarrassed to say out loud.

I got Jose’s permission to share his dream about MLK, but until today, he’s never shared that with more than three or four people. It was too embarrassing and too precious. He let me share it to inspire you.

To practice what I preach, I’ll risk sharing my ridiculous dream. With uncomfortable embarrassment, I’ll admit that my miracle work is to create ways to free the genius for millions of underdogs like Jose (and you) around the world — to equip and train them to play 1000X bigger than they were supposed to and to help them pay it forward. (I don’t feel any less embarrassed after sharing that!)

Here’s the thing to remember:
Even if you never realize your ridiculous dream in your lifetime, doesn’t it wake something up in you to try? And couldn’t your act of stretching awaken people around you to the best in themselves, also?

So, what is it for you? What is your ridiculous dream?
If you feel fear, embarrassment, or anxiety as you imagine it, you’re probably on the right track. Guard it closely because you’ll have plenty of detractors. But why not declare it to yourself?

Factor B.  What is the hard work no one else will do to achieve this? Will you do the work, every day?
Dreaming big is hard enough. Doing the work to make those dreams come to life is much harder because you have to stick with it day after day. On most days, you’ll see zero progress or worse. But you keep doing the work.

99% of people fall out at this step. The remaining 1% possess no special qualities except for a plan to implement and a higher tolerance for pain. They just keep doing the uncomfortable, boring, humiliating work, anyway.

What uncomfortable actions will you take to bring your dream to life? How and when will you begin?

It gets more ridiculous.
Jose’s dream had an extra shot of ridiculous. That’s because he did much of his dreaming in the shadows. Until a few years ago, he had no legal immigration status in the US. Every time he shared his story, he put himself at risk. Now, he has DACA status, which is still tenuous. His dreams really are ridiculous.

I’d love to hear from you.
What does Jose’s story inspire in you?

Please make a comment below, or send me an email directly if it’s too personal to share in public.

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