“Be careful what you ask for or you may just get it,” a mentor told me years ago. I had just explained to him what I wanted to achieve over the decades ahead, and his response was unexpected to say the least. I was taken aback by his warning — you could even say rattled.
I had been anticipating words of encouragement — “Go for it, Tommy” or “you can do it”. But they didn’t come. Instead, I was left confused.
I was in my early 20s at the time. I was just finishing my master’s degree and had grand ambitions for the future. I’m not someone who easily opens up about what he is thinking, especially when it comes to hopes and dreams. That day, I did.
I can picture it now, as if it were yesterday: what we were wearing, the angle that the sun streamed in through the window, how I felt inside.
That morning, as I sat in my mentor’s office, his words of caution took me completely by surprise. Noticing my stunned expression, he went on to explain what he meant. What he had wanted to tell me, was that with great power, comes great responsibility. That, when you achieve success and climb the ladder of influence, the burden on your shoulders grows heavier.
Behind his stark words, he was really asking a question: Was I ready for all that? Or, more appropriately, would I be?
Even with the explanation clear, I still found my mentor’s words confusing. In fact, they continued to perplex me for years. From the outset, I understood the point he was making, but that didn’t stop the message from replaying over and over in my mind, like a broken record. Don’t ask for what you want because you may get it — the words haunted me.
To this day, the point is so clear I could teach it, if only I believed in it. If a 20-year-old Tommy came to me now, I would not give that advice. I don’t understand the need to make someone question their hopes, dreams and ambitions.
I still respect my then-mentor, but the fact remains that rather than being a motivational coach, he knocked my confidence and caused me to walk away uncertain.
As a mentor, I would play it very differently. Faced with my younger self, I would tell him to give his all for what he wanted, and to not let anyone or anything stand between him and his goals. Why?
Because living your dreams — whatever the outcome — is always better than limiting them to the solitary playground in your mind.
The world is full of people who abandon their dreams and instead live their lives wondering what might have been. Too few of us are willing to pursue what we really want, while all too many of us allow the words or thoughts of others to curb our potential.
Why would you ever do that? Why would you allow someone else to take control of your destiny, when the one with the real power is you?
Most people accept what is as what will be, yet the world is ripe with examples of people who have taken a leap of faith and made their dreams a reality. That person can be you, but you have to go for it.
You have to jump all in. If you don’t — if you don’t pursue what you really want — then what awaits you is nothing more than what you already have. Don’t settle for that.
The world needs people who don’t hold back when it comes to achieving their goals. We need people who give their all and who gain all they deserve in return.
In 1969, The Rolling Stones released a song titled, ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’.
That may be true, but as the lyrics also remind us, “If you try, sometimes... you get what you need.”
Tommy Weir is the CEO of the EMLC Leadership Ai Lab and author of ‘Leadership Dubai Style’. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.