In ninth grade, I started a new chapter of my life by going to boarding school. Though the school was two hours away from home, it felt like a world away. I knew no one at Kent School and went there only because of my love for rowing. I had seen it during an eighth-grade visit and fell in love with the sport instantly.
When I arrived as a freshman, I was all on my own with few beliefs. One belief was that I wanted to try rowing. Another belief was that I was terrible at ball sports, slow, and had big legs. This had been reinforced by years of teasing from "teammates." That belief stuck with me, and upon arriving at Kent, I believed what many people had said about me: that I had big legs.
Going to a school where I knew nobody was a blessing in disguise, as nobody knew me either. This allowed for a fresh start in terms of meeting new people, but my old beliefs remained.
At Kent School, every student had to play a sport every semester, no matter the level. One day, after classes were over, all the incoming freshmen (35 boys) were ordered to line up outside the gymnasium by the athletic director and physical education teacher. The AD evaluated each freshman based on their physical features and suggested sports for them to try. If they didn't know what they wanted, he made that decision for them.
When he got to me, he said without hesitation, “You’ve got rowers legs.” Those words changed everything. For the first time, someone used my big legs positively, and for something I wanted to do! In an instant, my limiting belief transformed into an empowering one. Suddenly, I believed that rowing was my destiny.
The short statement from the head of athletics, "You’ve got rowers' legs," gave me the strength to keep training and pushed away my doubts about not making the team or winning a race. This simple phrase had planted in me the seed of belief that I could be a champion in this sport.
Years later, when I felt alone during SEAL training Hell Week, I drew strength from this same belief that I was a good rower. Crew had taught me to endure difficult physical and mental challenges, and if I could handle rowing, then surely, I could handle SEAL training too. My empowering belief propelled me through my journey, helping me win rowing championships, graduate from the Naval Academy, become a Navy SEAL, and so much more.
When I'm asked how I made it through SEAL training, I often answer "Because of my big legs." My story of how this gave me the belief to try out for crew, and then journeyed on to Navy Crew and SEAL team, shows that beliefs are a powerful weapon for success or failure.
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