Inky Johnson – Look Inside
Inky Johnson talks about meeting his father for the first time, and learning important lessons from him on finding the inner drive that will power you through tough times.
My mother had me when she was 16 years old, and I used to sleep on the floor and I had eight uncles in that same house and they did everything under the sun. Going in and out of prison, and my mother, she worked at Wendy’s and she would get off work at Wendy’s and I would be about the last kid sitting in the park and I would be waiting on my mother, cause I didn’t want to go home because every other day or every other week, our front door would get kicked in because my uncles, they sold drugs.
So every opportunity I got in solitude to cultivate a vision for my life, I took advantage of it. Now one night, my mother came into the park and I walked off the field, and I said, “Can you please introduce me to my father?”
Because I played every sport, and every sport I played, we had to show our birth certificates. And so every time I pulled out my birth certificate, I would always see my mother’s name, but I never saw my father’s name, and so it bothered me. And so she said sure, and so my first encounter with my father, I shook his hand, I said, “Hey man, how you doing?”
He said, “Hey little man. Man, I heard you could really play sports.”
I said, “Thanks, I heard you can too.”
I said, “But here’s what I need you to do for me. I need you to pick me up every Friday night, work me out every Saturday morning, and you can take me back home after that. I don’t need any money, I don’t need any clothes, I just need to make it to the NFL so I can help my mother and my grandmother. Can you do that?”
He said, “Yeah, I got you.”
And so he picked me up one Friday night, the first Saturday morning he shakes me, it’s four AM in the morning. I wake up, I’m wiping the cold out of my eyes, he said, “Little man, you said you wanted it, right?”
I said, “Yes, sir.”
He said, “Get up, we’re running two miles to this fire station, two miles back home.”
I said, “Okay, let’s do it.”
And so he walks by me and he busted a u-turn, and he looked up at me, he says, “Son.”
I say, “Yes, sir.”
He said, “I want you to pull that other person outside of you today.”
“No disrespect,” I said, “but I don’t see another person.”
I said, “So I understand we have different lives and you have a job, and so if you’re tired, I get it. You can go back in the house and you can go to sleep, but you’re not stopping me from running to this fire station. I’m running to this fire station whether you go or not.”
And he looked at me and what he said to me, it pierced my heart in such a way, he says, “Son, what I’m trying to get you to understand is no matter how hard you work, there is somebody on the inside of you that works even harder.”
He said, “No matter how dedicated you are, there is somebody on the inside of you that is more dedicated. No matter how committed you are, there is somebody on the inside of you that is more committed, and you don’t even know what commitment is yet. You think commitment is just saying ‘Yes I’ll do it,’ but what commitment is, commitment is staying true to what you said you were going to do, long after the mood that you have said it in has left, meaning on the days that you don’t feel like doing what you said you would do, you get up and you do it anyway. That’s what builds character.”
And he said, “I need you to understand the concept that there is another person on the inside of you, because one day in your life, you will face something that’s a lot tougher than you, and your strength, and your drive, and your commitment, and your work ethic won’t do it. You will have to realize that it’s something on the inside of you that’s greater than anything that life can throw at you.”
And immediately I got it. And so when my life changed, not only did my football career end, I got a paralyzed right arm and hand behind it. Life changed overnight, but I was extremely grateful for it because the whole time I understood that you have to tap into in order to get through one of the darkest, toughest, roughest moments of your life. There’s another person on the inside of you.”
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