Do you ever really know why you have an interest in something?

We love certain things that turn into hobbies, and occasionally you find you have a natural flair for your pursuit.

And so it is with my love of languages.

Languages were always my best subject at school by some distance, but little did I know this would give me one of my biggest life lessons.

As we hit lockdown after lockdown here in the UK, I turned to my old French and Italian books. That’s when I found The Green Owl. Mr Duolingo himself.

I didn’t know the league system when I joined, but I moved quickly through them regardless to find myself in the top league – The Diamond League. If I had music to put with this post right now, it would be dum-dum-dummmmm, with slightly sinister overtones!

It’s ferocious in there.

I tried several times to reach the top and failed miserably, although I was learning a ton of French as I went.

But this particular week, with some time to put to it, I started flying up the league and found myself at the top. Fantastic, you might think. Until the chase began from someone else in the league.

Now here is what I learned about myself, and I want you to know it too.

  1. You always project brilliance onto someone else.

You look at someone and think they are better than you, braver than you, more capable than you. Why is that?

We all have strengths and weaknesses, but that doesn’t make you worse off than someone else. And so, this is what I started out thinking about my nemesis, the nemesis that I didn’t even know! They were simply going to be better than me, and I was useless!

2. Resilience resides in all of us

I chose just to keep going. That’s it.

Let’s just see what I can do here. Let’s not question anything, but just keep my head down and slamming in the points when I could. I figured my nemesis must have a life too, right? In the beginning, I thought this person was not eating or sleeping but sitting on the app all day and night. Great, isn’t it? How we talk ourselves out of our lives?

3. Tell your inner demon to sod off!

This point leads me to the big one. The most significant learning that has dogged me for years.

As I sat slogging my way through the XP Points and learning a ton, I realised that out ahead of me, staring straight into my face, giving me abuse, was me! Me! The one that is capable and determined, kind and grateful, supportive and inspirational to others beyond measure.

That me! But what had I turned myself into?

As I sat there on that final weekend, I became like a maniac with my determination to stay on top, with fear in the driving seat. No, it wasn’t fear for not reaching the top of the revered Duolingo Diamond League, but a fear that I, the one that is capable and determined, kind and grateful, supportive and inspirational to others beyond measure, was useless. And to top it all here is something else I couldn’t do!

Seriously what kind of self-talk is that?

So, it took my seventeen-year-old son, as he was on his way out of the door, to say he wasn’t prepared to listen to the fact I couldn’t do it. That I should hang in there and keep going because he knew I could do it! Damn it! I have taught him well!

When you are taking on any project, just wait for it; that voice will tell you how much of a disappointment you are and why you won’t succeed. Why someone else is better than you, and why you are useless.

At that moment, stop—that very moment.

Recognise who that is. Yes, it is you! The fearful version of yourself. Tell that version of you to stand down. That you are not living in fear, and you are incredible and very capable of taking this on.

The more you tell it to shut up and quieten down, the weaker it will become. Pretty impressive, right?

Did I reach the top of the Diamond League? Hell, yeh I did! Who knew the little green owl could show up for me in such a big way with all of his wisdom.