The pawn is without a doubt the least interesting and exciting piece on the chessboard. It has the most limited movement, cannot move backwards, and it is easily blocked by other pieces. For these reasons, and many others, a lot of players look at their pawns merely as meat shields to block attacks on their other pieces, and they rarely think twice about losing one or more of these sacrificial lambs to gain some other minor advantage. What these players fail to remember though is that the pawn has a powerful, unique ability that can completely shift the outcome of a game. If a lowly, weak, little pawn can work its way all the way across the board, it can be promoted to any other piece (typically a queen). By putting in the effort to safely journey through enemy territory, the weakest piece in your army can realize its full potential, become anything it wants, and lead you to victory. Just like the pawn can become anything it wants with enough effort and planning on that checkered battlefield, in life you have the opportunity to be whatever you can dream up as well.
The United States has been built on the notion of the “American Dream.” This idea that anyone, no matter who you are or what your background, who puts in enough time and effort has the opportunity to build any life they want is what makes our nation so great. While immigrants and individuals in certain minority groups often still recognize and appreciate what a privilege this is, unfortunately the “American Dream” has become so commonplace that it is often taken for granted by most American citizens. Sure as children we are told that we can be anything we want to be when we grow up if we work hard enough, but as we get older and choose a career the endless possibilities we could become start to fade. Then as we start our lucrative career, buy a house, start a family, and create a life for ourselves, the pressures and responsibilities of our lives make most of us forget about our infinite potential altogether. This is extremely unfortunate, not only because there are not many countries that afford this privilege to their citizens, but also because it is never too late to take advantage of this gift. You are never too old, too busy, or even too happy with your life to learn something new. Whether you want to learn to cook gourmet food, to speak Japanese, or to fly an airplane, you have the opportunity to go do it. Your ability to learn new skills or even a whole new career is far too special to be overlooked, which is why it is important to be reminded of what a privilege this is from time to time.
Since I have grown up in a minority group as a disabled person, I have always felt so fortunate that I live in the United States. Here, despite my physical limitations, I can still create any life I can dream up. In most other countries however, having spinal muscular atrophy would have prevented me from pursuing any of the unlimited possibilities for my future that the “American Dream” gives me the opportunity to achieve. Recognizing how special this privilege is and being the big dreamer that I am, I have always made sure that I take full advantage of this gift to be anything I want. Early on in my life, I knew that I wanted to go to college, live independently, and be a functioning member of society. To chase my dream, I worked hard in school, learned to survive without my family as much as possible, and researched various organizations and such that help disabled people live on their own. Now it was a ton of work and took an enormous amount of time, but I was able to achieve every one of my goals. The “American Dream” gave me the opportunity to accomplish all of this, and it also put me in control of whether I succeeded or not. If I was willing to work my ass off, persevere, and never give up, then I had every opportunity to create any happy, successful life I chose.
More recently, I once again took full advantage of my freedom to pursue any of the infinite possible futures available to me when I decided to start Roll Models. Even though I had no formal training as a speaker or writer, had never run my own website, and had no real reason to think I would succeed, I was free to seize the opportunity to make the career change from statistical consultant to professional speaker. I had my own “American Dream” of using my story to help people, a deep (almost arrogant) confidence that this was my calling in life, and an unyielding work ethic, and thankfully in this great country that is all you need to chase your dreams. I am not saying that I did not hit some bumps along the way or worry about being able to pay my bills at times, and there was definitely a lot more to Roll Models’ success than just this, but having the opportunity to try this new career is what got the momentum going. Knowing that if I could figure things out and find a way to succeed that nothing would stop me, gave me the confidence to go after my new life. In doing so, I am now living my “American Dream,” which has brought an entirely new level of happiness to both myself and others.
Promoting a pawn into another piece is one of the most exciting and powerful moves that can happen on a chessboard, and by turning the unlimited potential of the runt of the chess litter into a stronger piece, you can achieve new levels of success. As you have learned from reading my stories of chasing my “American Dream,” you can similarly reach greater levels of success and happiness in life by taking advantage of your opportunity to realize your own infinite potential. We are so lucky to live in a country that allows you to be anything you can dream up, that it would be a travesty to not use and appreciate it. What is the one thing you have always wanted to learn to do? What is the great business idea you have always wanted to try? What did you want to be growing up? What is your big dream? Think about and answer at least one of these incredibly important questions, and then ask yourself, “Why not chase that dream now?” Do not let yourself make excuses either (use “The $1,000 Question”). I promise that no matter how busy you are, how old you are, or how tired you are, your life will improve by chasing your dreams. Because no matter how happy and content you are with your life, I guarantee you could be happier.