“It’s only a dream until you write it down. Then it becomes a goal.”: Emmitt Smith, San Diego, and Returning to the West Coast

I’m sitting here in the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego, California, where I return for the first time since 2015 when I was here for the Winner’s Celebration event for Farm Bureau Insurance. San Diego is just a beautiful as it was then, though I’ve learned twice now that sunny Southern California isn’t as warm as one would think this time of spring. While I’d love to be outside, I am instead seated comfortably inside, away from a brisk cold wind that has dominated since my arrival on Saturday.

Inside, wishing for the warm, sunny Southern California I’ve long heard of.

I’m here as a guest at a conference that has been excellent so far, and had the pleasure this morning of listening to the day’s opening speaker, who happens to be the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, a 3-time Super Bowl champion, an NFL Hall of Famer, and Dallas Cowboys legend: Emmitt Smith.

I have to admit: my father was never a big Dallas Cowboys fan when I was growing up; until the Carolina Panthers came to NC, Dad had always been a Minnesota Vikings fan. Not until later in my life (when I became an adult, actually) did I appreciate the Dallas Cowboys or Jerry Jones like I do now. Like them or not, why wouldn’t every fan want a guy like Jerry Jones owning/running your team? I’d take his desire for his team to win over an invisible, never-present owner ANY DAY. I have great admiration for the Cowboys now, and what their team has accomplished over the years under Jones. So to get to hear a product of that winning culture, and someone who was at the center of the Cowboys’ success in the 1990s when they solidified their status as “America’s team” was exciting. Not to mention, I’m a huge sports guy…so to see Emmitt Smith speak was enjoyable if for no other reason than that.

He walked in to the intro of the song “The Greatest Showman” from the film The Greatest Showman, which may be my new entrance to speaking engagements. What a pop of energy!

We don’t know one another on a first-name basis, but something about calling him “Smith” in this blog post like one would do in a newspaper article seems too informal, so I’ll refer to him as Emmitt as if we were lifelong friends (sounds cooler, for sure).

I could not stop writing down quotes during his speech. Emmitt is a guy who has every reason to boast about his abilities and accomplishments, yet he doesn’t. He is a humble man and refuses to take sole credit for his accomplishments. In fact, he said something multiple times in different ways, but this was my favorite way he said it: “How can you remain hungry and grounded at the same time? Share the spotlight with others. No one gets success by themselves.”

I loved that, and could not help but think how it applies to me. Sure, you and I may not be NFL Hall of Famers and former Super Bowl champions, but we have all accomplished things in life that likely others around us contributed to. For instance, my Farm Bureau agency last year increased production by 36% over one year, and I’d be naive to think it was simply because of me. It was because of my team; all players involved had an impact on that achievement, and when we reach our goals for 2019, it’ll amount to the same thing. “No one gets to success by themselves.”

The same applies in my writing career. I wanted to write a novel so badly, and when I finally realized the story I wanted to tell, I still struggled to make it happen. Until someone in my life cared about me enough to push me; that person made me want to be better and reach my goals. You know who you are, and I truly believe you’re the reason I made it. I didn’t write this book without the support of you and others around me. If I could list the names on the front of my book cover along with mine (as the author) of those who supported me and pushed me to finally reach this goal , I would do it. Even my novel, A New Requiem, was not orchestrated alone. When the book releases, you’ll see my dedication page. It’ll be clear that I believe in what Emmitt said that “no one gets success by themselves.”

When it comes to my career as a Farm Bureau insurance professional, I realize the very same thing applies. I can’t even begin to thank all the people who inspired me to be the best I could be. Without them, I am not sure I would achieved as much as I have with the company.

During Emmitt’s speech, he reflected on winning an award from Gatorade his senior year in high school that won him a trip to Super Bowl XXI in 1987 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California where the New York Giants defeated the Denver Broncos 39-20. He could not decide whether to bring his mother, or father, or girlfriend…so he decided to bring his best friend with him. They flew to Pasadena, and he told his best friend that day, “One day I am going to play in the Super Bowl here at the Rose Bowl.” His best friend replied, “I hope you do…because I want to party some more.” The room erupted in laughter.

The moment was funny, but the reality is that we do need to celebrate the wins with the people around us who support us and help move us forward. When A New Requiem release this fall, I look forward to celebrating the moment with the team of people who have supported me along the way and made it possible to realize a dream I’ve long possessed.

The most important thing I got from that point, though, was that we need to celebrate the wins…just in general. I am the world’s worst for accomplishing something, then moving on to the next thing before I ever even enjoy the moment that I did something good. When I finished A New Requiem, I was already ready to start on the next novel. One night, I caught myself jotting down notes for the next book, ready to get started on Chapter 1, paused, and said to myself, “Lance, why don’t you just stop for a moment, and enjoy the fact that you just accomplished the biggest goal of your life so far?” Always strive to achieve, but don’t stop celebrating the successes and wins, or achieving anything will stop meaning anything.

My view from the hotel of San Diego Bay.

“It’s only a dream until you write it down. Then it becomes a goal.”

This was my favorite line from Emmitt’s speech. I could not agree more. I encourage my team at Farm Bureau and others to write down their goals. That’s when they actually mean something. And I always like to remember the goals of those around me, so I can remind them of what they told me they wanted to achieve. It’s good to be held accountable! Emmitt admitted in the early 1990s during the first year or so of his career that he was writing his goals down when someone walked into his hotel room. He quickly shuffled them around so his teammate would not see them, but then his teammate (I believe he said it was Michael Irvin) asked him what he was shuffling around when he walked in and he wanted to see them. It is a good thing to show others our goals. When I showed someone my goal of writing a novel, that person encouraged me to see it through…and I am not sure if I ever would have finished it had it not been for them. Tell people your goals! Remember, it’s just like Emmitt said: “No one gets success by themselves.” People around you can make you better.

To me, the best part in life is experiencing it with others. That includes the wins and the losses. The successes and the failures. Life isn’t always great, and you’re not always going to win and succeed…but make no mistake about it: you will never achieve your goals if you don’t have any. I think it’s fair to say Emmitt Smith had goals. He told his best friend on the trip he won to the Super Bowl his senior year in high school that he would play the Super Bowl at the Rose Bowl one day, and he did: the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Buffalo Bills 52-17 in Super Bowl XXVII at the Rose Bowl on January 31, 1993. He realized his dreams because he wrote them down and made them goals.

It’s never too late to realize your dream! I’m only 32 (young still, right?), but I always wondered in my 20s if I would ever actually hunker down and write a book. One thing Emmitt said today certainly rings true in my life: “Sometimes people see things in us that we don’t even see in ourselves.” That’s actually the first thing I wrote down that he said today, because I can absolutely relate to it. If you’ll let people in, those around you can show you that you can do things in life you never thought you could do. After years of wondering whether I’d ever see the novel come to fruition, one person held me accountable and helped push me to accomplish the goal I told them I wanted to achieve. Now, A New Requiem is set to be released this fall.

The other day on Instagram I saw something that really encompassed my problem all those years where I never knew if I would reach my goal of becoming an author. It was a GIF that said, plainly: “If you want to be a writer, write.” It’s usually as simple as that: if you want to do something, just do it. Nike has been telling us that for years! Listen to those around you that want to help you! A lot of times what you need is right in front of you.

I’ll be announcing a release date for A New Requiem very soon, and I can hardly wait to reveal it and the book cover to you! Thank you all so much for reading my blog, and staying up to date on what is going on in my writing career.

For now, I’ll go back to enjoying the conference, and sunny Southern California. The Padres play the Colorado Rockies tonight at Petco Park, and when baseball is in town, you can rest assured I’ll be there.

The Pacific Ocean from Cabrillo Monument National Park.

About Author

Lance is a writer, speaker, and businessman in the greater Piedmont Triad area, and the co-founder of The Richmond Observer, a daily local news publication in Richmond County, NC.

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