Once upon a time there was a race horse called Container Terminal.
He came from a generation of race horses that had won many races and he too had won his fair share during his time. But he was nearing the end of his career as a race horse.
He was growing old and his muscles were no longer as supple and as agile as they used to be. He was taking longer to recover between races and he very clearly could see that the end was near.
Somehow he believed that he still had it in him to win a major grand prix, not come in position three or four as it has been in the last couple of years. He yearned for the glory of a first place finish.
He hadn’t finished in first place in so long he had forgotten what it felt like to be number one. Competition was getting stiffer, age was catching up and besides even people that used to be on him were not betting on him as much. It seemed everyone was ruling him out of the game even though he felt he still had some game left in him.
Compounding all this was the fact that his life long trainer also seemed to spend less and less time training him, instead he spent time training the young Arabian studs that were being entered into bigger races while he was entered into smaller races. All this time Container Terminal was mourning and complaining not so much to others but to himself. He complained about the unfairness of it all. How could he be treated like this in his golden years when he had brought so much glory and rich winning to the people who bet on him! Why have those people stopped betting on him, how could they stop betting on him when he needed them to bet on him the most, he asked himself. This is not fair he cried to himself.
This went on for a while until one day it occurred to him that it was obvious no one was going to bet on him, and that the only option he had was to bet on himself. ┬áContainer Terminal surveyed his competition, he admitted it intimidated him at little bit but he figured that there was very little he could about the competition but acknowledged that he could bring the fire back into his training. So from that day on Container Terminal became a different horse, he strode differently around the race course, he behaved differently amongst other horses. Other horses began to look up to him in awe and admiration.
In training he started outpacing some of the younger studs that were called the future of horse racing. Soon his old trainer took notice and was spending more time with him. He kept his promise of training as hard as he could until one day it became obvious that he was once again ready for the big time. This new path was not without difficulty for Container Terminal.
First of all he was called names by the younger studs who poked fun at him. Then there was a nagging feeling that kept telling him that he was not good enough and that ┬áhis time was up, but he ignored it all and kept his focus on his training. Every day he asked himself, how could he make this day better than yesterday, it wasn’t easy because there were days when he lost his focus and let self doubt get the best of him. ┬á┬áDays ┬áwhen he wanted to give up the game, when he wanted to escape the pressures of the game and run as far as possible from anything that had to do with racing. However great the pressure he kept at it.
So one┬á day his trainer came in and broke the news to him that he had entered him for the Durban July Handicap, a South African Thoroughbred horse race held annually on the first Saturday of July since 1897 at Greyville Racecourse. He was going to race against the very best horses in the world, from as far as Dubai and Las Vegas. Container Terminal couldn’t believe it. Why was his trainer taking such a huge gamble on him, was he really that good, why was he betting his reputation on horse that hasn’t won a major race in recent history? He asked himself.
As if they could read his mind, his trainer and his jockey said to him that we picked you because you are horse that never gives up, we picked you because your self belief is insurmountable, we picked you because there is a fire that burns inside of you that’s not there in other┬á younger horses that are squandering their youth. We picked you because you are disciplined and you are always willing to give it a 110% everyday.
In the end Container Terminal went to the Durban July Handicap even though he didn’t win, he came in second position, a feat that everybody thought was impossible for an old race horse that was not even supposed to enter the race because it was said that the his best years are behind him. ┬áThis is an old story, it is perhaps as old as time, it is the story of an underdog that refuses to give up but instead decides to bend circumstance to his will. Well this is just a story about an old race horse, that everyone thought was down and out.
But isn’t it interesting how the story of a horse can be similar to the story of people in many ways. Just like most people, Container Terminal was plagued with self doubt, he just like most people always felt that he was of the wrong age just like sometimes people feel that age is an issue. That they are too young or too old. He too persistently felt that he was no good just like most people relentlessly sell themselves short by thinking that others are better than they are. He too had nothing going on his life because he was too busy waiting for someone to endorse him or to take bet on him, just like most people are waiting for a vote of confidence from those who they perceive as having a superior opinion about their potential.
Now tell me. If you were that race horse, what would you have done? Would you have accepted your fate as written in the stars as most people saw it or would you have done exactly what Container Terminal did? Would you have bet on yourself or would you have kept wailing on about how unfair it was that people are not betting on you? Today, in your current life and circumstance what is your approach, are you waiting for an endorsement, are you waiting for someone to bet on you or are you going to go ahead and bet on yourself whether someone bets on you or not?
Today, what are the odds against you? Have you been ruled out of the game? Have you been told that you are too young and experienced, or too old and left behind? That you are not good enough, that you are not match for competitors,┬á that you wouldn’t last, that you are bound to fail and that your breed is a breed that never wins? Have you bought into all these stories, are you perhaps that are saying this things to yourself? Are you answering to some of the names they call you?┬á As Chika Onyeani, wrote in his book The Capitalist Nigger “it is not they call you, it is what you answer to.” So yes may be you have been called a loser, or it has been insinuated in many different ways that you are not good enough or that you don’t make the grade, but what will ultimately determine the quality of your game is whether or not you accept the labels that have been put on you.┬á
You could step up your game if you want, you could become bigger than you already are, but that is just me saying this to you. The bottom line is what you say to yourself when you are alone. When you are alone do you like Container terminal wrestle your fears to fears to the ground or do you let self doubts dominate your day. There probably will never be a day in your life when you will have perfect unimpeachable confidence, that is why you have to always be building it and reinforcing it. If there ever comes a day when your confidence is bigger than the task at hand that’s the day you begin to lose your edge. The lesson from our friend Container Terminal is that confidence and self doubt are two sides of the same coin, without self doubt there will be no opportunity to grow your confidence and without confidence there will be no chance to grow stronger by overcoming self doubt.
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