When a friend shared his dream of becoming a speaker with me, he was alive with possibilities. He envisioned himself on stage, not just delivering speeches, but inspiring a wave of transformation within organizations.
As a frequent keynote speaker, I saw his spark and connected him with a seasoned industry professional—someone in a position to complement the guidance I had already been providing.
But instead of guidance, my friend was met with cold dismissal. “You don’t have what it takes,” was the verdict of the industry sage.
And just like that, his dream was tainted with doubt, and he was on the brink of abandoning it entirely—until I intervened.
Echoes of doubt were nothing new to me. I recalled the familiar voices of naysayers from my youth in Istanbul. My aspirations to work on a space mission were often met with derisive disbelief. “You can’t do it,” people would scoff. “You were born into modest circumstances in a developing country. People like you don’t work on space missions. Maybe in another life.”
But I wasn’t willing to postpone my dreams for another life.
When other people say you can’t do something, it’s rarely about you. It’s about them—their unmet aspirations, their fear of failure, or their definition of what’s achievable. By telling you “no,” they’re often trying to navigate their regret for the paths they didn’t take and the gates they never opened for themselves.
“They may know the odds are low. But they don’t know you,” I told my friend, quoting from my book Awaken Your Genius.
Yes, life comes with real limitations—your place of birth, social class, and structural discrimination, to name just a few. But acknowledging their existence doesn’t mean surrendering to them. And sometimes, it’s the journey around these limitations that carves the most innovative paths and reveals the strength we didn’t know we had.
If a publisher rejects your book, that’s not the final word. Self-publishing isn’t a consolation prize; it’s seizing control of your narrative—much like Andy Weir did with The Martian, which skyrocketed from self-published obscurity to Hollywood glory. If a corporation doesn’t recognize your potential, it may be time to build your own startup. And if the music industry overlooks your work, think of the artists who bypassed record labels to release their music on their own terms.
My own journey to working on a Mars mission wasn’t paved with applause at every turn, but with a quiet determination that echoed louder than any doubt.
And in that determination, I discovered a critical truth: The gate isn’t just open. It was never there to begin with.
The gate is often an illusion—one that’s made-up by those who appoint themselves as guardians of what’s attainable.
These gatekeepers draw their authority from a story they’ve crafted—one where dreams are fenced in, and only a select few hold the keys. Equally powerful are the beliefs of those who take these gates for granted, unwittingly reinforcing the boundaries drawn around their dreams.
Whether you’re looking to speak, to write, or to launch rockets, the principle is the same.
The path to your future isn’t guarded by gates.
There’s no lock or key—just the mirage of “can’t” and “shouldn’t” waiting to be reimagined by “can” and “will.”
P.S. Exciting update: Inc. Magazine just selected Awaken Your Genius as one of “the most insightful, impactful, and non-obvious books” of 2023.
Haven’t caught a copy yet? Find it here.
Every week, I receive messages from readers whose lives have been touched by the book. Here’s a glimpse from one recent reader: “Awaken Your Genius launched me on a journey of transformation. I’ve gained an internal steadiness I can’t fully explain, but it is releasing fresh energy into everything I do. Your book was instrumental in launching me on this path toward increased creativity, and a corresponding decrease in concern about what others think about me.”
For those who have delved into Awaken Your Genius, I’d be grateful if you took a moment to leave an honest review on Amazon and Goodreads. Reviews help new readers discover the book. Thank you for your support!