When I was young, there were plenty of people who didn’t think I’d amount to squat. My life’s philosophy was “I only count when I get other people’s attention.” And that’s exactly what I did. I was an expert at making people laugh, having a good time, and driving teachers up the wall. I wasn’t concerned with making the grade (my siblings already had that base covered), and my saintly mom was in school talking to the principal more than I was in class! My teachers all told me the same thing—“If you’d just apply yourself, Kevin, you’d do so much better” or “Why can’t you be more like your brother and sister?”—that is, all except for Miss Wilson.
When I look back, I count Miss Wilson, my gray-haired math teacher, as one of the top five people who really mattered in my life. She was the first one to tell me I had any skills. Just a few months before graduation, Miss Wilson cornered me and said, “You know, it occurred to me the other day, and I wonder if it ever occurred to you, that maybe you could use some of the energy you expend on these antics to really make something of yourself, rather than just being the proverbial class clown—at your expense, I would add.” This blew me away. It even made me angry at first. But her expression told me that she saw something in Kevin Leman that others didn’t, and so I gave her a chance. It was thanks to her help and tutoring that I was able to make the grades to graduate. Even when I was sure I was dumber than mud, Miss Wilson didn’t give up on me. Later, I would meet another wonderful woman who didn’t give up on me either—my wife, Sande.
My point is, we all have dreams, goals, and things we want to do with our lives. But it’s awfully hard to get there without any help. We need people who believe in us, who don’t give up on us, like Miss Wilson. When you’ve got a person who believes in you, you’ll find you have a lot more courage to try those things you never thought you could do. I always ask people when I’m speaking, “Who believed in you?” If you’re successful in any area, it’s because perhaps one person believed in you. If you had two people who believed in you, then you’re really blessed. Consider the people in your own life who’ve believed in you. Do they know how grateful you are? Maybe take some time to write them a thank you note and to provide them with some encouragement. Also, ask yourself what you’ve done to let the people you love know that you believe in them. Everyone needs to have someone who believes in them. As for me, if it wasn’t for an old math teacher, I might not be writing this.
For more encouragement and some tips on living wisely, turn to my books The Way of the Wise and Have a New You by Friday.