Do You Believe In Yourself?

It was fleeting, but it was real. For a brief moment, I felt like a hero. Not some cheesy comic book type with a silly costume and a cape, but a heart-pounding ‘is-that-really-possible’ hero (in the eyes of my five-year-old son, in any case). Looking into his eyes at that moment, I felt a pride that I had rarely felt, bursting out of my chest. I came, I saw, I conquered…… and WOW did it feel good.

To set the scene, he is mad about the film ‘Despicable Me,’ you know, the cartoon with the Evil Genius turned good and his thousands of Minion helpers who look like fluffy yellow headache pills (well, that was my grown-up interpretation). We are lucky to live in a seaside town in the UK with an annual pass to a fantastic local amusement park. My little boy is a good kid, and he never asks to go on the arcades or do the stuff that costs ‘extra’ – that is a treat for every now and again. But every time we visited, he used to walk past this one sideshow game (exactly like the one in the photo) with longing in his eyes….. the prizes were the stuff of dreams for my little chap.

I try to teach my two kids that material possessions are not important, but one day, my willpower snapped…… It was my birthday, the 17th April 2014, and I had popped down there for a couple of hours with them. My son had already given up even looking at this sideshow, bless him, but I thought, “hey, why not, I’ll try to win one for him”. His eyes opened wide, and I realized with horror what I had let myself in for….. He really believed that I could win it for him. I was suddenly petrified of letting him down. And I mean really scared. I was not going to let myself fail.

The game seems simple, but is devilishly hard. You have to throw two very bouncy rubber balls (in a row) into a bucket, and they have to stay in. The bucket is at a 45-degree angle and most people try (in vain) to throw the balls up in a slow arc, so they bounce off the bottom angle. I always do things a bit differently, and I pride myself on the accuracy of my throw, so I thought, “Ok, well, what happens if I throw it hard but straight against the top angle? Surely that is as good”…. You get five throws for £5. Two balls have to go in consecutively. How hard can it be?

Throw One: Thrown hard, but not so straight. Missed by a mile, bounced back and nearly took my daughter’s head off! “Why don’t you throw it like everyone else Dad?”….. “I just want to try this mate, believe in me”…… “But Dad, you’ll never win doing it like that.”

Throw Two: Thrown hard, straight and got it IN!!!!! Scenes of jubilation as my boy thought I’d won the Minion for him. I then had to remind him that I needed to get the next one in. I asked him how he thought I should throw it. “It’s up to you Dad, you got this one in, didn’t you?”

Throw Three: I thought about abandoning the high risk strategy….. I was actually quite close. Was it a fluke or could I do it again? I tried to throw it hard for a third time. I failed…… I even saw a little tear in his eye. I wanted the ground to swallow me up. I was ready to spend a lot of money just to win this bloody toy, but I had to focus, to stick with my plan. I knew I could do it. “Come on Dad, you can do it.” Detected a hint of sincerity that made my resolve harden.

Throw Four: I had got this far, I wasn’t going to give up now. Threw hard, threw straight and the ball bounced high off the top lip and slowly down into the bucket again. Yesssssss! I dared to dream…. I had now attracted a bit of a crowd as we were being quite noisy. Imagine the scene…. Two little kids chanting “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy…..” It brings a tear to my eye even now. I had to make my fifth and final throw count. My technique seemed so risky, almost impossible, but I had to stick with it. I knew no other way. My little boy…. “I love you Dad, you can do it.” Sniff…..

Throw Five: I’d done it. Straight and true. Boooooom. Pure. Unadulterated. Joy. Jumping around like an idiot with my kids, not caring about all the smirking bystanders. “Thanks for believing in me mate”……

I know that this may strike you all as fairly trivial (and you’d be right!), but at that precise moment in my life it was the most important thing in the world. If you want to achieve something impossible, if you want to be a hero, there is one essential ingredient. Belief. Believe in others and their belief in you will help you to believe in yourself.

Best birthday present. Ever. That day I decided to believe in myself. For good. No matter what.

The Minion’s name is George.


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