I wonder what it must’ve felt like? Surrounded by thousands of fans, watched by millions around the world. Holding the trophy you committed your entire career for high above your head. Cementing yourself in history as an all time great. On that day, I’m not sure anyone in the world felt better than Lionel Messi.
Goals have been on my mind lately; and not just because of the World Cup. It’s that time of year again, where I think about 2022. The good, the not so good, how I got to where I am now. It’s also a time to look ahead, which I enjoy. Call it corny, but I’ve always been fond of the end of the year. Perhaps my wishful thinking is to blame. While dreaming about the future can be fun it can simultaneously be daunting. Just like focusing on the past can bury my mind in darkness, the future has my head so far in the clouds that I can hardly breathe.
As I grow older, however, I have learned how to keep a level head and remain in the moment more often, specifically when thinking of the future. Goals have been a pivotal part of that.
Messi started playing soccer with his brothers as soon as he learned to run. At one point, one of the greatest players of all time was just like any other kid. Winning a World Cup was just a far off dream and much like any idea, was born from nothing. If we just pause Messi’s life here, put ourselves in his little baby boots, just think of how unlikely leading your country to a World Cup is. Impossible is the word that comes to mind.
Of course, this dream wasn’t achieved overnight by the kid from Rosario. It took countless hours, practices, games, and other milestones to get there. Beyond the hundreds of goals, it took hundreds more outside of the game to achieve what Messi did. Without these goals, perhaps no one would have ever heard of Lionel Messi.
Goals make life fun.
Like anything in life, achieving goals takes time. A lot of the time it can feel like an arduous process; much like Sisyphus perpetually carrying a boulder up the face of a mountain. Fortunately for Messi, soccer is fun. Fun is the first opportunity for love to develop towards our passions. For me, had I not first found writing and making people laugh enjoyable, I would have never stuck with it. Why would I? Comedy is mostly failing, after all. I would estimate that 80% of the art is just eating shit. But then there’s that 20% which reminds me of the first time I wrote a joke, told it to a crowd of strangers, and made them forget about all their problems and just laugh for a moment. Without fun, Messi wouldn’t have been as dedicated and thus talented as he is. So when setting your goals, both long and short term, make sure you’re having fun with them.
Goals leave no regrets.
Long term goals are always the ones that are celebrated. I can’t imagine the decibel level in Argentina has been any louder than when Messi lifted that golden globe over his head. Imagine if that moment never happened. In this alternate reality, not only did France win, but Messi didn’t even get past the group stage. This was a brief reality for Argentina after they lost 2–1 to Saudi Arabia. One of the great sports moments in history, could have been one of Messi’s greatest regrets.
So how did Messi change the narrative? How did he recollect his team and reignite their pursuit of glory? I’m not so sure it was one moment. I think it was a collection of little, unseen moments that delivered Messi his long sought after trophy. Winning the World Cup simply would not have been possible without all those little goals achieved along the way. It also wouldn’t have been possible without the small failures along the way. Saudi Arabia was just one of many impasses Messi faced. He faced countless on the training pitch, many more playing in La Liga and for his country. But he persisted, precisely because his goals, and thus his failures, were small.
The world wasn’t there to cheer Messi as he showed up to practice before anyone else. Or during the hours in the film room he spent studying the opposition. They weren’t supporting him in hours of defeat. But it was moments like these that were exactly why winning was possible. Alone, each goal and failure seemed insignificant. But together, they were building blocks to achieving soccer supremacy.
I like the new year because it allows me to break down my dreams into smaller, achievable, realities. It also makes the impasses I face along the way seem manageable. Like they’re just part of the process. By setting short-term goals and planning for the hurdles along the way, those pie in the sky dreams seem less daunting. Some even feel closer than ever and it’s all thanks to well-thought-out, actionable goals. Write everyday, get on stage every night, book a show by this date, film this sketch; whatever form the goals take, I plan for them. From there, things become a lot simpler for me. No longer am I chasing the impossible. Instead I’m developing myself in a way to seize the opportunity when the impossible comes.
Goals keep us focused on the now.
I wonder what Messi was thinking as he touched the World Cup. Was he thinking about all the painstaking years spent bringing his plan into fruition? The sleepless nights caused by his dreams and regrets running through his mind? The anxiety of wondering if he would ever achieve his final goal? I don’t think so. In fact, I don’t think Messi was thinking about anything at all at that moment. Similar to the game he just played, his final goal before achieving his ultimate goal, I think Messi was entirely present. He wasn’t thinking about the past that got him there, nor the next goal of winning the Champions League with PSG. I think Messi was just enjoying the moment.
I think a lot of people are like me. I genuinely and passionately plan for the future, I do all the right things, but then I get stuck. I become paralyzed by the very thing I plan to achieve. This goes back to what I noted earlier; so high in the clouds that I can’t see my next step. It’s almost as if your near term goals have to be better than your long term goals. Your present has to be better than your dream of the future. Said differently, I don’t think Messi wanted to win a World Cup more than he wanted to play soccer. He was in love with the game, not with the dream.
That’s really what it comes down to isn’t it? Life isn’t about achieving some grandiose dream we’ve always had. For Messi, it was about waking up everyday and playing soccer. It was about practicing until he became one of the best in the world. It was about helping his teammates so they could also taste greatness with him. And then, it was about leading a country so they could be a part of his dream. As Messi lifted the World Cup above his head, he and all Argentinians around the world lived out the dream Messi had since playing on the pitches of Rosario. For the fans, I don’t imagine any of us trading that moment for anything. But for Messi, I imagine he’d trade it to do it all over again. After all, it’s not the dream that life is about, it’s about the journey it takes to get there.