Darryl’s Story – A Lesson in Self-Belief

Old Book

“Sometimes the spark of success is simply refusing to allow the closed-minded and
limiting beliefs of others to define the reality of our potential.”

Without question the digital age is amazing, but old books have long been a treasured joy in my life. While I appreciate the modern conveniences of Google, GPS, and smartphones, there is nothing like paging through the slightly yellowed pages of a century-old book. Each page requiring a delicate turn for fear the slightly brittle paper may tear.

My senior year of high school I stumbled upon a set of books fitting this description to a T. Written in the early 1900’s, they were a series of short stories, bound in aged brown leather binding. One story from the bunch always stuck with me. I don’t know whether the story was actually fact or fiction, but it held such an incredible moral teaching I recall the basics of it to this day.

This story was about a young boy. I’ll call him Darryl.

From a very young age Darryl’s mother was overprotective of her son’s intellectual shortcomings. Since the beginning of his formal education he struggled with the basics of reading, writing, and math. His end-of-school-year report cards were filled with C’s, D’s, and even F’s.

Darryl’s mother would constantly make excuses why he could not achieve like other children, trying to make him (and herself) feel better. His teachers pushed him to learn a remedial trade, or seek and settle for a bare-bottom job, frequently telling him he would never achieve anything more.

At 19 years of age Darryl finally finished his schooling. He began searching for a full time job, taking with him the subconscious mother-teacher imposed mental label of a slow-learning underachiever with no real potential for success.

Darryl was not considered an even averagely bright person by most of society’s standards. He was unable to read, write, add or subtract, with a great deal of efficiency. Yet, Darryl had some very pleasing charms about him. He was very mannerly, personable, and pleasant to be around. He exhibited many natural gifts. Those who took time to get to know him considered him friendly.

On top of everything, most importantly, despite the negative labels and stigmas placed on him by authority figures and people surrounding him his entire life, Darryl was stubborn in his resolve to succeed. Every day, several times a day, he would repeat to himself, almost remedially, “I think I can, I think I can!” after his favorite childhood story The Little Red Engine.

One day Darryl heard of a job opening at a local convenience store for a position of inventory clerk. Remember this was in the early 1900’s…the job paid forty cents per hour. He applied for the job and fared quite well through the interview process until the interviewer asked him about his education.

Being honest in nature, Darryl admitted his struggle with reading, writing, and math. The store’s owner refused to hire him, for it would never do to have an inventory clerk who could not accurately read, write, add and subtract. Such a clerk would lose track of the store’s inventory, potentially harming the business.

Dejected, Darryl went to see one of his friends, who happened to own a widget supply business. He shared with his friend what had transpired at the job interview.

“I’ll tell you what I’ll do,” his friend responded sympathetically. “I’ll give you this box of widgets. It’s a product everybody can use. You go and sell these widgets and I’ll give you 100% of the profit.”

Darryl enthusiastically agreed and went forth. He went on a widget selling super-spree. He sold the widgets. All of them. With the money he made he purchased more widgets from his friend and resold them, again keeping the profit. He repeated this cycle over and over again.

Darryl discovered he possessed a skill for selling widgets that could be matched by very few others. It was not long until he set up his own widget supply business, and his business flourished.

A few years later Darryl had the opportunity to purchase the building that housed his widget supply business. It was a multi-unit building, giving him a chance to be a landlord, collect passive rental income, and set him for life. It was an incredible opportunity.

Excited, scared and apprehensive, Darryl went rushing to his bank.

To the bank manager, who by now knew him by name, Darryl exclaimed, “I need to borrow $10,000 and I need it soon! Can you let me have it? If I can get $10,000 I can buy this building. Can you please let me have it?”

The elderly banker looked at young Darryl curiously, smiling. “Why do you want to borrow that amount of money?” he asked. “Do you know how much money you have in this bank?”

“No.” Darryl replied sullenly. “I’m not very good at reading or writing, or with numbers. When my bank statements come I just file them away. All I know is I’m not struggling. But I think I can be successful.”

“Your balance is well over $25,000,” the banker stated. “You, son, are a very successful young man! You didn’t know that?” The banker paused, then said, “Imagine what you might have been if you could keep track of numbers!”

Darryl was silent for a long minute, thoughtfully reflecting back on his modest and frustrating beginnings.

Finally, he spoke.


Now, I’m sure the particulars of that story as I recall it, the numbers or widgets sold, or other small details are off, but the moral teaching shines clear. In all of our lives there will be people, sometimes well-meaning people, who will try to place us in boxes, imparting false and limiting beliefs on our lives based on their limited vision of what may be possible.

The truth is much greater and grander. It is what we choose to think and believe about ourselves that determines the rightful path of our pursuits. Nobody can (or should) believe in ourselves greater than we believe in ourselves. That’s an amazing concept, worth adopting to our very core.

Hopefully you enjoyed reading that story as much as I enjoyed recalling and writing it.

As always, thank you for reading…wishing wellness and empowerment your way,

Dr. J