One man’s opinion

Pete ran home excitedly to let his father know he’d made the under 10 football team for his school. The coach was the headmaster, and he had chosen the team that afternoon and told the boys who had made it, just prior to the end of school.

Pete ran in the door breathlessly and straight into his father’s study. “Dad, Dad!” he said, excitedly, “I made the under 10 football team for the school. I got chosen as the goalie.” Pete’s father stopped what he was doing and looked over the rim of his glasses at his excited young son. Smiling he said, “Just remember, it’s one man’s opinion.” Pete stared at his Dad, not comprehending what he meant.

Two years later, Pete made selection for his province’s under 13 football team. The preceding two years had seen him increase his skill base with practice, dedication and many many games. His father had come to watch most games and stood quietly on the side-lines watching his son. When Pete told his father he had made the under 13 team, he again saw his father smile and hear him say, “Just remember, it’s one man’s opinion.” Again Pete didn’t understand the context of what his father was saying to him.

The team went away to the provincial championships and played well, coming second to one of the larger and stronger provinces. Pete loved the atmosphere of being surrounded by such good players and watched as some of the elite players showed their skills in games that he watched. A national team was selected from the tournament, but Pete wasn’t one of those selected. Disappointed, he told his father this, and his father again said, “Just remember, it’s one man’s opinion.”

When he was 16, Pete tried out for the Under 17 provincial side, believing he would easily make the team. He had been playing well over the past few years and had received many, man of the match awards. As always his father was on the side-lines watching his games. When the team was announced, Pete found his name missing from the roster. He hadn’t made the team. He was devastated. He walked slowly home and said to his father, “I missed out on the team, I didn’t make it. What did I do wrong?” Again his father looked over the rim of glasses and said to him, “Just remember, it’s only one man’s opinion!”

The Under 19 side left Pete at home as well. As did the Under 21 side. Pete had been practising and dedicating all he spare time to being the best goalie he could be. But it just didn’t seem to be helping him get noticed by the provincial coaches. Sure, he knew the goalies they took away with them to the provincial tournaments were good, but Pete thought he was their equal. For four years now he had been on the side-lines and regardless of what he tried, he just could not get noticed.

Finally he spoke with his father who has been at his games and asked him, “Dad, what am I doing wrong that I can’t make the provincial or national teams any more?” His father sat there for a moment and said to Pete those all to familiar words, “It’s only one man’s opinion.”

Pete said to his father, “Dad, all these years you have been saying that to me, and I have never known what you mean. Please can you explain this saying to me.” His father looked at Pete and smiled. “Pete,” he said. “Our lives and how we operate, can be determined by what other people say or think of us – if we let them determine our legacy. But it is actually what we think of ourselves that matters. In the morning, look at yourself in the mirror. That is the person, whose opinion that really counts. If you’re happy with what you see staring back at you, then you needn’t worry about other peoples’ opinions of you.”

Pete went away and pondered on his father’s carefully chosen words. It made sense now what his father had been instilling into him over all these years. Without knowing it Pete has been trying to impress other people and receiving external recognition, as opposed to recognising internally that he was doing OK. From then on, Pete’s thought processes changed to reflect how he believed he was doing. He took and accepted external advice that was given, and internalised it to see if it fitted within his personal parameters. He then made further subtle changes to enhance his own self belief. He then saw that his football career was changing. He was more composed, more self aware and reflected more internally on his ability and how he was doing. This allowed Pete to understand his performance better and make the necessary changes before he was told.

One day the National football coach rang Pete and told him he wanted him for his Under 23 side to go to the World championships. Pete was to be the number one goalie in the team. Pete was flabbergasted. He hadn’t expected the call up. The coach said to him, “I have been watching you over the past couple of years, and my team needs your composure and self awareness. You need to show us and train us on how you can internally be so calm during the big matches.”

Pete rang his Dad and told him of the news that he had just received. He waited, and of course his Dad congratulated him and then said the words he was expecting, “Just remember, it’s one man’s opinion!” Pete smiled and replied, “I know Dad, but this time it is my opinion as well!”

Pete now understood, we are not determined by what others think of us, we are determined by what we think of ourselves and our own self belief. Life sometimes isn’t fair and what people do to us or think of us, may not be fair, but that is life. We are the better for it if we live our lives having looked at ourselves in the mirror and given the person staring back an honest answer, and then acted upon that answer.