Maybe you’ve always had a dream to write a book, record an album, or make a movie. All of us have had dreams that were never realized. Think of yours right now. What’s held you back from seeing it made into reality?

Whatever your dream is, I can tell you that the number one reason we don’t see our dreams fulfilled is that we let other people convince us we’re not capable of fulfilling them. But honestly? Most of the time, we have no business listening to people’s advice to, “Stop trying,” or to, “Give it up.” Especially if they themselves don’t do (or even dream of doing) what we hope to do.

I had two dreams brutally squashed before I was old enough to realize what was happening.

1. I wanted to be a singer. 2. I wanted to write a book and get it published.

Today, I am traditionally published author with books selling in multiple countries. And before I saw my first book published, I did music full-time (granted I was playing the drums, but I’ve since realized that I can sing fairly well if I put my mind to it).

So, you may ask that if I was capable of both singing and writing a book, how in the world did I let someone else squash my dreams of doing either? And, more importantly, how did I de-squashify them?

Well. . . the dream killing started in middle-school when I was in a church drama, singing in the choir. Several ladies turned around, smiled condescendingly, and said, “You have such a pretty voice, but that part is WAY too low for you. You should be singing the women’s part.”

Few things are more embarrassing to a little boy than being told, 1. You’re pretty, and 2. You sound like a girl. Here I get both simultaneously while I’m wearing a ridiculous robe-thing that looks like a dress.

I was so upset that I ran off the stage and refused to finish the drama. I decided that day that I was never going to sing in public unless I could sing in my (then nonexistent) lower range. I forced my talking voice lower, and actually hurt my vocal chords doing so.

Then comes high school. I’m singing in youth-group and a few people in front of me turn around, smirk, and say, “You can NOT sing at all.”

This happens multiple times, from multiple different people, until I’m too embarrassed to even sing in church for fear that the person in front of me might hear my terrible voice. All this time I was playing drums in different groups, and when I volunteered to help out with background vocals, was told I didn’t have it in me.

Then comes college, where multiple times I’m again told I’m incapable of singing, and even encouraged to not join a vocal group because I, “Just can’t sing.”

Now, I’m no Andrea Bocelli, but none of those people had any business telling me I couldn’t sing. Because really? I can. I can harmonize. I can sing on pitch. And while it may not be grammy-award nomination status, I could have worked on it and gotten way better if they just wouldn’t have destroyed my belief in my own abilities.

As for writing? I never got good grades on papers in school. I consistently got C’s in college English, even when I tried hard. Heck, when I took my ACT and filled in the optional “Essay” portion, I failed it so miserably that they didn’t even give me a report of how I did on it.

It made it extremely hard to believe that I could actually write at all. I mean, if I couldn’t write a paper that was worthy of an A+, how the heck could I expect to write a 400-page novel and get it published in the “real world”?

As long as we’re alive, we’re able to grow. To change. To learn. To adapt. It may sound cliché, but “success” is 99% hard work, and only 1% talent. I didn’t get a publishing contract because I was extremely talented. I got a publishing contract because I labored on the book for 4 years, studied obsessively, and practiced every day.

Where you are does not define where you could be.

Wherever you are in your life right now. . . no matter what people have claimed you are incapable of doing. . . throw their words in the garbage disposal. Wipe the slate clean.

Because you’re capable of more than you think you are.

Want to write a book? Start writing. Don’t listen to the people who say you’re incapable. Because it doesn’t matter. Just do it. If you’re truly incapable of doing it, you’ll find out eventually, but only after you’ve done everything you can to TRY.

Want to learn how to play guitar? Start taking lessons. Start playing. Put it into action. Our lives are too short to wallow in self-pity or regret.

To be clear, life isn’t about doing things. It’s about loving others and loving God.

But God put us on this earth so that we could enjoy living. And part of living is doing things that bring vibrancy to our lives. And what is friendship but people living life together?

Don’t let people steal from you. I did, and I wasted years of my life believing I was incapable of doing what I was perfectly capable of doing.