It’s Your Life – Dig Deep, Set Goals, Pursue your Passion to Achieve ESL Fluency

Lucille Ball. The Beatles. Ulysses S. Grant. Michael Jordan. Thomas Edison. Walt Disney. Abe Lincoln.

Although discouraged at one time in their lives by what others thought and said, and maybe even what they thought themselves, these individuals managed to dig deeper. They discovered an inner motivation to reach success. They continued to pursue their dreams. SO how does this relate to English language study and gaining English fluency? Well, have you heard…?

You aren’t smart enough

You are too old

It’s too expensive

There is no time

It’s so overwhelming It’s really hard

You’re too tired

You have better things to do

You can get by without it

The list goes on of why your English is not improving

Let’s look a little closer at these individuals who gained success and pushed those discouraging comments away.

Lucille Ball. Wasting her time? Too shy?  Not putting her best foot forward? That’s what she was told.

lucille ball

Accomplishments – An American comedian, model, film and television actress, and studio executive; star of several sitcoms (I Love Lucy, The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, The Lucy Show, Here’s Lucy, and Life with Lucy). She became one of the most popular and influential stars in the US during her lifetime (1911 – 1989).

The Beatles. The recording studio directors didn’t like their sound. Wasn’t guitar on the way out? That’s what they thought.

The Beatles Band

Accomplishments - They became the best-selling band in the US. They had more number one albums on the British charts and sold more singles in the UK than any other musical group. They topped Billboard’s magazine’s list of the all-time most successful Hot 100 Artists in 2008. As of 2013, they held the record for most number one hits on the Hot 100 chart. The Beatles received 7 Grammy Awards, an Academy Award for Best Original Score, and fifteen Ivor Novello Awards. They are listed in Time’s compilation of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. They have had over one billion records sold throughout the world. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked the Beatles as the greatest artist(s) of all time.

Ulysses S. Grant. What could a 38-year-old failed soldier and a former real estate agent do? Many did not believe Grant would amount to much.

Grant on $50 bill

Accomplishments – 18th President of the US (1869-1877) after earning success as a military commander in the American Civil War. He led the Union Army to defeat the Confederate military. Many historians have applauded Grant’s military genius.

Michael Jordan. After being cut from the high school basketball team, he went home and locked himself in his bedroom and cried.


Accomplishments - His biography on the National Basketball Association website says: “By acclamation, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time.” He was a league star with his leaping ability of slam dunks. In 1991 he won his first NBA championship with the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls won additional titles in 1992 and 1993. There were three more NBA championships in 1996, 1997 and 1998, as well as a NBA record set in the 1995-96 season with 72 regular wins for the team. As an individual player, Jordan has won five Most Valuable Player Awards, ten All-NBA Team designations, nine All-Defensive First Team honors, and three All-Star Game MVP awards among other awards. He holds the NBA record high for a career scoring average (30.12 points per game). ESPN named Jordan the greatest North American athlete of the 20th century. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.

Thomas Edison. Was he really too ‘stupid’ to learn anything? That’s what a teacher told him.

thomas edison drawing

Accomplishments – Known as an American inventor and businessman, he holds 1093 US patents as well as patents in the UK, France and Germany. His inventions influenced the world. Among some of the most noteworthy were the phonograph, the motion picture camera, the electric light bulb, a stock ticker, mechanical vote recorder, and a battery for an electric car. Many historians consider Thomas Edison brilliant.

Walt Disney. He was fired from a newspaper job for lacking imagination and having no original ideas. None.

celebrities with minnie mouse

Accomplishments – American business magnate, animator, cartoonist, producer, director, screenwriter, entrepreneur, and voice actor. He co-founded Walt Disney Productions which now is known as The Walt Disney Company with an annual revenue of approximately $36 billion. During his lifetime (1901-1966) Disney received four honorary Academy Awards and 22 Academy Awards. He was nominated 59 times for an Academy Award, yielding more awards and nominations than any other individual in history. Disney also won seven Emmy Awards.

Abe Lincoln.  Do you think being defeated eight times in political elections (plus having his fiancée die and having a nervous breakdown) stopped Lincoln from his desire to serve in government?

abe lincoln

Accomplishments – Lincoln was elected the 16th President of the US (1961 – his assassination in 1865). He led the US through the American Civil War to preserve the Union and helped abolish slavery, strengthen the national government and modernize the economy.

SO you see that even though these individuals could have called it quits, they stuck it out. They reached deeper to find the motivation to pursue their interests. That is the same for any of us who might be hampered by an obstacle or something negative at some time in our life. We need to dig deeper to get the motivation to climb to success. We need to overcome the obstacles. Well, have you heard…?

You aren’t smart enough

You are too old

It’s too expensive

There is no time

It’s so overwhelming It’s really hard

You’re too tired

You have better things to do

You can get by without it

You need to step back and think of a tactic to overcome this situation at the moment so you can reach your goal(s). What can you do as a student who a) is learning English, b) who wants to learn English or c) who needs to learn English?

  1. Positive self-talk

Tell yourself that you can do it. Remind yourself about the Lucille Balls and the Michael Jordans of the world. Then go for it.

  1. Preparation

Get ready. Read about different types of programs to learn English, whether online or in traditional classrooms. Explore activities and resources at the library, bookstore and the Internet. Gather any English books and reference books that might be helpful.

  1. Materials

Have the necessary tools. Do you have an updated English language dictionary and thesaurus?  How about a computer? What about the basic writing materials:  notebooks, notecards, pens? Do you have a study buddy or some people who you can converse with in English either face-to-face or online?

  1. Scheduling

Have you looked at various options that work best for you at this point in your life? Have you checked out times, locations, costs as well as offerings that match your goals?

You aren’t smart enough – Anyone can learn given the right situation.

You probably have all heard that motivation and effort are more important than natural ability. Vince Lombardi (NFL football coach) believed that “…it isn’t whether you get knocked down that counts; it is getting up.”

And there are other definitions of intelligence.

Tabatha Coffey (business owner, TV personality, contestant on TV show Shear Genius) defines intelligence as not just being book-smart or having a college degree. It’s trusting your gut instincts, being intuitive, thinking outside the box, and sometimes just realizing that things need to change and being smart enough to change it.”

You are too old – There is no limit to learning.

You know the stories about people in their fifties, sixties, seventies and older who followed their passions to accomplish great things.

Bill Wilson started AAA at age 40 to help millions overcome alcoholism.

Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa at 75.

Laura Ingalls Wilder published her first book at 64.

Susan Boyle performs on Britain’s Got Talent at 48.

Mother Teresa left the convent at age 38 to open a school in Calcutta.

Julia Child took 40 years to find her passion and at age 51, she began her long-running PSB program The French Chief.

Grandma Moses did not begin painting until she was 76. She had no formal art training and painted every day. Within 25 years, she had painted over 9000 pictures.

Peter Roget compiled the thesaurus at age 73.

Gandhi led the Salt March to protest a salt tax at 61.

Ray Kroc franchised McDonald’s at age 52.

It’s too expensive – What is the price of not learning?  Can you really put a price limit on how learning can impact your life?  Spend a few minutes thinking about this.

There is no time When is there time? When is the right time? Where can you squeeze out more time to study? Look at these two viewpoints about the value of time:

Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. – Carl Sandburg, American writer, Pulitzer Prize winner

Waste your money and you’re only out of money. But waste your time and you have lost part of your life. – Michael LeBoeuf, business manager and former professor

It’s so overwhelming – Many things that are new seem overwhelming. But taking that first step helps the second step become so much easier.

John H. Johnson, American businessman and founder of Johnson Publishing Company, suggests making small goals and then accomplishing these. This will give you confidence to go to higher goals. He feels “…if you make them too big, you get overwhelmed and you don’t do anything.”

It’s really hard – Sometimes the hardest things in life are the most worthwhile. If you keep at it, it won’t be hard forever. Soon you’ll be wondering why you even considered it hard. Can you think of other things in your life that were hard at first?  How did you overcome this? How do you feel now? Use these self-examples to help you now.

Steve Jobs talked about hard work. He felt that in the end it was worth it because “… once you get there, you can move mountains.”

You’re too tired – Are there some things you can do to help you in this area? Can you adjust your schedule? Go to bed earlier? Take a nap? Add some exercise to your daily routine? How about a walk at lunch time? Maybe try meditation or yoga?

Anthony Robbins (peak performance coach and self-help author) believes that

“… the higher your energy level, the more efficient your body. The more efficient your body, the better you feel and the more you will use your talent to produce outstanding results.” Oprah Winfrey adds “… passion is that comes from energy. Feel the power focusing on what excites you.”

You have better things to do – Really ask yourself… Is that the truth or is this an excuse? Are you trying to prevent learning and rationalize why you should not continue studying ESL? What better things do you have to do? Didn’t you list this as your goal? Do you need English for your job or career?  Do you need it to pass that test to attend college or get that degree? Really think it through. Where are your priorities? Can you take other things away in your life that are interfering with the study of English so you can better focus on English study?

You can get by without it – Statistics show that the world is becoming more international and connected. English is the common language for business, travel and communication. It is the official language in more than 75 countries and it is spoken as a first language by 375 million people and as a second language by about that same amount of people. Estimates of one in four people in the world are able to speak English. It is the language of science and technology. More than 2/3 of the world’s scientists read in English. It is the primary language of books and newspapers around the world. About 75% of the world’s mail is written in English. And 36% of the Internet’s 200+ million users communicate in English. A working knowledge of English helps secure jobs. Multinational corporations need fluent English speakers. It is also the first language of the European Union, the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations and NATO.

How can you not get by without it?

SO remember. Use the technique of positive self-talk. Be confident. Get prepared. Have the necessary materials. Schedule time. Check out different methods and programs to find what might work best for you. The convenience and pricing of online English programs is worth a look.


You are smart enough

You are never too old

It’s not too expensive

There is time

It’s not so overwhelming It’s really not that hard

You’re not too tired

There is nothing better to do

You can’t get by without it


Do you have any comments about this article? Are there other examples that you want to share of how individuals turned “discouragement” into inner motivation to succeed? Do you have an example within your own live?  Feel free to share. Write to me in the section below. SO don’t let anyone tell you differently. You can learn English. You can start today.

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