I’ve noticed that one thing I really don’t like are low ceilings in a house. Have you ever walked in a room and just felt like the ceiling was too low? I found out from some contractors who build houses that houses have a set minimum position where the ceiling has to be—it’s not allowed to be too low.
Cape Town, South Africa
I was speaking in Cape Town, South Africa a few years ago, and as many of you know Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and was host of 2010 The World Cup. I was telling this group of about 500 students that dreams come true and that we have a promise, that we can walk in the right principles, that we can get through problems, and that we can all have the reality of meeting our goals.
I used stories of the rap and hip-hop star, Jay-Z because these kids love hip hop. We talked together about him coming from the streets of Brooklyn and how he believed in himself, and found certain principles to live by and then step by step his dreams came true. “He even got Beyonce!” I told them, the kids laughed. After I was finished telling my story there was a round of applause, but immediately afterwards I was surrounded by kids with questions. “Mr. Storey, can this really work where we come from?”, “Do you really believe these things you say, or do you just say them to make us feel better about our lives?” These questions really got to me… I wasn’t motivating people in a mansion in South Beach, Miami, or in a celebrity’s house in Beverly Hills. These were kids, who wake up everyday living in an environment that most of us really can’t even imagine.
I walked by their homes– which many looked as if they could be assembled in one day, they were made of metal with hard floors. This was their reality, this is what they saw everyday. Talk about the low ceilings that we all don’t like… Everything is cramped in most of these houses, they didn’t have much room for anything… including people. I believe the message of your finest life is universal, I don’t believe we will all have the same things or have the same experiences, but I do believe we don’t have to be trapped in an almost life. An almost life, means “not quite”. You “almost” got happy. “Almost” lost weight. “Almost” saw your dreams come true. So these young people were saying to me, “Does your message of living your ‘finest life’ work where I come from?”
I believe in order for us to live our finest life wherever we are whether it be Stockholm, Brooklyn, Whittier or the challenging parts of South Africa, we need to do these three things:
First of all we need to “think big in small places”. No matter how small or cramped your surroundings are, you need to let your imagination soar beyond the low ceilings. Whether it’s a small house that confines you, or a bad relationship that is crowding you in, you must take time to imagine. In the case of the young people in South Africa, I challenged them to go to their school library and read biographies of different people who thought big in small places.
Secondly, you need a boost. When I was a kid we used to jump over to this lady’s house to pick her avocados. She was an older lady and she gave us permission to come and get the avocados from her trees, but sometimes when she would leave to visit her sister’s house for weeks at a time… we were too impatient to wait, so we would jump her high, brick wall. The best guy at climbing the high trees was the smallest of all of us. We needed him on the other side of the wall where the trees were to pick the avocados, but he was too small to get over the wall by himself so we would have to give him a boost up. One guy would get on his hands and knees and the smaller guy would stand on his back. That gave him just enough height to get over the wall. That’s what all of us need from time to time… is a boost up, for someone to sacrifice their time, talent, finances, or even their energy to give another person a boost.
The third thing, what we all need to live our finest life in any situation is… a big dose of patience. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a magic wand that we could wave and all our problems could go away? Unfortunately, life isn’t that easy and it doesn’t work that way. Rarely does one hit the lottery, or “the one” discovered by Steven Speilberg for a movie role while walking down the street. Usually it takes awhile to transform, and renovate any situation. This can be tedious and time-consuming, but don’t forget that success leaves clues. By you finding your way out and sometimes over difficult situations you are leaving the combination for others to do the same.
After taking another hour just talking with a lot of the students after my speech we decided that step by step with another person’s help we could live a better life and that the better life could lead to one’s finest life. Finally one female student said, “Don’t get discouraged by our questions Mr. Storey, we just wanted to make sure you really believed we would do great things in life. I plan on being a doctor, so let’s keep in touch you might need me someday.” And then she smiled. She’s right; maybe someday she’ll be the one to give me a boost.
“You have many years ahead of you to create the dreams that we can’t even imagine dreaming. You have done more for the collective unconscious of this planet than you will ever know.”
PSALMS 37.4: “Delight yourself in the Lord and he shall give you the desires of your heart.”