Families are our first classroom, and in mine I learned the power of fearlessness. For National Siblings Day, I want to tell you the story of my twin brothers, John and Jim West. They dared me to follow them, and their spirit of adventure made me see the world as full of possibility.
1. Be a fierce competitor.
When I was born, my brothers were 5, so it was always up to me to join in their world (not the other way around). They would be wrestling and fighting and I wanted in. Pretty soon one of them would take me down and I’d go crying to the sidelines.
Comfort? Not in this crowd. My brothers didn’t care if I couldn’t take it. Neither did my Mom or Dad. If you stepped into the fray, you figured it out.
The wrestling, fighting and endless competition was straightforward. If you didn’t have or get the resources to stay in the fight, no one was going to give them to you. In this space, my resolve and grit increased, and I became more fearless.
2. Don’t take life too seriously.
By the time my brothers were high school seniors, I was in eighth grade. It was like watching a preview of being a teenager and making (questionable) choices. To say they were risk takers in an understatement.
One time we were on vacation at Lake Michigan. Dad was laying out on the beach. He was a pharmaceutical sales rep who loved nothing more than spending time with us. But this day, he was tired and the sun was golden and there he was, napping on the beach.
Jimmy and Johnny decided the perfect prank would be to surprise dad by starting a fire. They lit a small section of grass on fire and let it go just long enough to wake Dad up in a panic before dousing the flames.
From watching their pranks and troublemaking, I learned to not always take life quite so seriously. Through them, I saw a boldness that I could copy when the time was right for me.
3. Practice confidence under pressure.
Dad enrolled my brothers in flying lessons at any early age. By 16, they had their pilot licenses. Today, they are both commercial pilots and Johnny is a former Navy aviator who graduated from “Top Gun” school.
Thousands of hours of flight time and crisis simulations taught my brothers to stay calm under pressure and execute. It’s almost annoying to hear them criticize how other people panic when things go really wrong. After all of Jimmy and Johnny’s time in the air, and all that practice, the fear has been nearly bred out of them.
I didn’t follow their footsteps to flying, but their fearlessness influenced me greatly. They modeled the confidence I needed to break into the male-dominated world of sports agents and fueled the fearlessness I needed to negotiate toe to toe with people a lot like them.
4. Broaden your world.
As tight as my family is, the door always was open to other opportunities. When I saw my brothers leave the comfort of home in Michigan, that inspired me. One brother spent summers as a lifeguard in Maryland. The other chose college in Alabama (at Auburn).
I stayed close, going to Michigan State for college. But I knew I wanted to test myself like they had, and their choices helped frame my decision to move to Atlanta. They had toughened me up for the challenge of starting a new life in a new city on my own.
5. No pain; no gain.
This was my brothers’ favorite motto and it stuck with me. Every day before I even got up for school, they would wake up at 5 am for their job on the paper route, delivering newspapers in the snow.
They transferred that same mental and physical discipline when it came time for their ROTC training. I learned early from them that great things don’t come without sacrifice, and when you work hard, cool things can happen.
6. There are lots of ways to get where you want to go.
Jimmy’s lifelong dream was always to be a pilot, so he was devastated when he didn’t get into the Air Force Academy. But instead of letting it crush his dreams, he went to school in California to improve his test scores.
Six months later, he got a perfect score, and was accepted into the Air Force Academy. Meanwhile, Johnny was at Auburn where he would mail Jimmy letters about how awesome his college experience was. Jimmy completed his first few years at the Academy… then packed his bags and transferred to Auburn.
A lot of people thought he was crazy. But Jimmy wasn’t giving up on his dream; he just knew he could create his own path to get there. And he did!
7. Marry someone who makes you better and you make better.
Big brothers also come in handy for dating advice, and when I was in my 20s, Johnny would always tell me: “Marry someone who makes you better and you make better.” I don’t know if he would even remember his brotherly words of wisdom now, but I do. I took it to heart and live it every day with my amazing husband of 15 years, Fred.
Your Game Changer Takeaway
Our siblings are our longest-lasting family ties and shape our lives in important ways. Despite our busy lives and crazy travel schedules, I still talk to my brothers 6 – 7 times every week. I’m grateful every day that they treated me like a little brother when we were growing up, and I would not be who I am today without them. If you have a sibling, I challenge you to list what you learned from (or what you love about) them and share it with them!
Molly Fletcher helps inspire and equip game changers to dream, live and grow fearlessly. A keynote speaker and author, Molly draws on her decades of experiences working with elite athletes and coaches as a sports agent, and applies them to the business world. Her Game Changer Negotiation Training™ has helped organizations and individuals across all industries more effectively ask for what they want, build stronger relationships and close more deals faster.