There is only one reason I've ever achieved any goal. I got there NO MATTER WHAT. My mantra, that has been with me since I was about 14 years old, is, "There is always a way, and I will always find it".
This mantra has literally allowed me to do the 'impossible', a number of times. There's nothing particularly special about me, I'm no different from anyone else, I haven't gotten anywhere by being special, I've done it by doing things in a special way... or more accurately, THINKING about things in a BETTER way.
Some, like Dr. Kerry Spackman, a pro-sports coach, call it an "unshakeable belief". That little bit extra inside of you, that gets you over that line just that much quicker, or at all. You train, you work, but if you're not truly feeling it, if your heart's not in it, if there's no six-year-old-Christmas-morning-feeling or fantastically bubbly excitement that it's already yours, then it's going to be hard to get there, to be the best, to win that gold, or even achieve that impossible dream.
I had one of those unshakeable beliefs that I was going to work at Stanford University as soon as I set foot on the campus. This was immediately tricky as I'm from New Zealand and not a U.S. citizen. At the time, I didn't even know Stanford University was in Palo Alto California until I visited a friend there, and I only vaguely understood the prowess of the place. I didn't care, it felt so good to be there, standing amongst the Rodin sculptures on the beautiful grounds.
Perhaps if I had known exactly how well-known Stanford was, I would've been intimidated. I'm glad I wasn't, but there were far more real challenges. I didn't have anything close to a Ph.D. back then. All I had was a high school science teaching qualification, a very weak Bachelors' in biology and no freaking idea how I could possibly ever work at Stanford.
I didn't care. I was going to do it. No Matter What.
I didn't worry about HOW I was going to do it. Something in me just trusted that it would happen. I started where I was. I told anyone who would listen what I wanted. I asked questions and grabbed the opportunities that would help me - even the tiniest step in the right direction - and I took the next logical step each time I needed to.
If you're looking for the magical answer to having all your dreams come true... well, you just read it.
The best way for me to explain this, is to show you. This is how I became the research assistant who reported directly to the Chief Medical Officer of Stanford University Hospital, within one year of standing on the grounds with nothing but a full heart and a willingness to do just that, no matter what.
One of those people who listened to me going on and on about Stanford was an American who was vacationing in N.Z. He happened to know the director in charge of summer holiday programs at the Palo Alto Y.M.C.A., and suggested I call her. Since the Palo Alto Y.M.C.A. is 6000 miles closer to Stanford than New Zealand, I called. I was overjoyed! I could teach a small group of 'at-risk' youth that mountain biking and being good to each other were super fun things to do - so with my new short-term exchange-student work visa in hand, I spent five and a half months at the Palo Alto Y.M.C.A. being a summer camp 'director'. I visited Stanford often, talked to people, asked questions. Never really getting closer to achieving my dream.
After about five months working at the 'Y', I met a woman who'd been bringing her nephew to the summer camp every day. We got on well, and talked every morning for a few weeks. It was only after she mentioned that she'd be taking her nephew to work with her the next day so he could see what a good life he had compared to the very sick children that she worked with, that I found out she was a gastroenterologist at Stanford. Of course I told her my dream, and she told me about the children she worked with. It was inspiring, but my short term seasonal work visa was running out, and I was flying back to N.Z. the next day, so a visit wasn't possible. I couldn't believe it.
And that was that. I was back in N.Z. I thought I had better make a start on that Ph.D. if I ever wanted to work at Stanford. I signed up for a new one year Masters' course in Immunology, because there was a lot of laboratory work involved, and I adored the careful, detailed examination of cells. Looking back now, I wonder why I wasn't deterred in the slightest - it had been seven months since I had set foot on Stanford's hallowed ground and decided I wanted to be there. I'd been within a stones throw for almost 6 months and hadn't gotten anywhere. The only thing I had was my unshakeable belief, and importantly - I had let go completely of the 'how'. I just kept going with the next thing in front of me.
Then, a few months into my Masters' program I got a phone call. My friend was calling from her office in the Department of Gastroenterology at Stanford. I was so excited that I could hardly manage the necessary polite small talk, but I didn't have to for long - they needed someone to help them, in a laboratory, at Stanford. I protested that I knew nothing about gastroenterology, and she replied asking how much I knew about Immunology.
Within three months I was sitting in the new employee orientation meeting at Stanford University Hospital. I had an expedited work visa - when the Chief Medical Officer wants you working for him, it happens fast. I had been set up in the Transplant Immunobiology Laboratory with the nicest bunch of Ph.D. students you could ever meet.
I was so proud, all I had done was believed, worked on whatever was in front of me toward that goal, and kept on going, no matter what. I still know that all I ever have to do, is believe, take action with whatever opportunity is right in front of me, and keep going no matter what, with anything I ever want to achieve.
I know that that is all anyone ever need do.