There’s been a lot of talk about the speech former NFL cornerback Deion Sanders gave at the 2011 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Deion, just like he had many times in the past, delivered a “prime time” performance to put a crown on an incredible career in football. Sanders, an unapologetic Christian, began his speech just like many of the press conferences he participated in throughout his tenure by thanking God for everything that he had been blessed with. As any Hall of Fame Inductee would have done, Deion thanked all of the former coaches, owners, and players he played the game along side. Then, the focus of his speech surprisingly shifted away from football and on to the relationship he had with his mother.
As the speech continued, Sanders recounted a time in his life when he was ashamed of his background. He explained that he excelled at football at an early age and had the opportunity to play with other kids who benefitted from their parents’ affluence whilst support came from his mother, who raised him on her own by working a nighttime janitorial shift at a hospital. He shared that he was shamed by his mother’s financial struggles and committed himself to making it as a professional athlete. This was so that she would never have to work again. Sanders then reflected on his football career, particularly the criticism he received throughout, and how he saw through it all and used his mother as motivation for excellence.
I can’t say that I can completely relate to what Sanders said but I do appreciate the sentiment he shared when it came to seeing through the criticism of others. Many of us have had people doubt us or tell us that we would never amount to anything. And while average is by and large the final destination for most people, it doesn’t have to be for me and it doesn’t have to be for you. After I watched Sanders speech, I began thinking about my life, the criticism I’ve received, and what got me through it. I’m not going to say that all criticism was unjust or unwarranted because that would be untrue. However, the criticisms that I have perceived to be unfair have often fuel for accomplishing something. I don’t believe that people receive criticism and then then next day they go out and do something extraordinary, but I do think that incremental success is certainly realistic.
I have plenty of stories in my own life of times when I’ve been criticized and had the opportunity to use it to fuel me. I’m not interested in sharing those stories right now, but I am interested in stories that a person like Deion Sanders has and stories that you may have too. Have there been times in your life when people have told you that you’ll never amount to anything? Have you been told that you weren’t good enough, weren’t strong enough, weren’t beautiful enough, or weren’t talented enough? If so, I want to know about it. What has put that grit in your soul?