This is a story for those that think they must accept their lot in life. Its a story for those that think that leopards cannot change their spots. It's a story about human spirit and the incredible capacity we have for fundamentally turning our lives around irrespective of our circumstances, our chequered past or even our present situation. Its a story about a man named John. And John is an inspiration.
7 years ago John was a career criminal. He was brought up in an environment where money was his master and was gained from foul play. It was a path that was laid out for him and he chose to follow it. He worked the system and had some near misses but then he got caught and was sent away for 7 years.
Nothing changed at first. He was playing the game, biding his time and planning his return to the outside world and back onto the path he knew well. But then his world collapsed. In a cruel twist of fate his best friend outside the prison walls was shot dead in a robbery. This was the catalyst for changing Johns life for the better.
He cannot adequately explain how he felt at that time or describe the emotions he experienced. All John knew was that it could have been him and he would have made nothing of his life. He knew he had to change or would be doomed to live a life devoid of fulfilment.
Johns last 4 years have been a story of focus, dedication and self reflection. He has channeled his energy into indoor rowing as the prison was fortunate to have such a machine and he has excelled beyond any rationale expectation by beating world endurance records and winning the GB indoor championships. He also recently came third in the European championships amongst a field of high performance athletes used to competing at this level. Yet I know this is only the beginning for John. He has exciting times ahead of him. He has jettisoned his old life and is working hard to create a new one and he has shown me how we all sometimes cling to our old lives which can lead to excuses which ultimately hold us back.
And Johns metamorphosis is not solely based around sporting endeavours. He reads voraciously about self development and philosophy. He gains friends and admirers everywhere he goes. He has a contagious smile and a huge appetite for life. And for someone so focussed on winning he is incredibly gracious in defeat. He is a true champion.
Too often we assume we have no control over our own destiny and are defined by our past. I beg to differ. And so does John. Do you?