I’ve been chasing thoughts about changing direction. What would make me happiest- despite how it may seem impractical, impossible or implausible. Through crazy snow, I wasn’t able to write about my thoughts like I wanted to. So, I’m going to take the time today.

Last week, a friend and I went to the WVU Festival of Ideas kickoff. Byron Pitts is the contributor to 60 Minutes and chief national correspondent for The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. He directed his speech mainly to the younger, first generation college students in the audience. But I think we can all pick up what he was laying down.

Byron Pitts

He spoke of his stutter and how he couldn’t read up to 12 years old. Young Pitts had the gall to decide he would be a journalist. Not only a journalist, but this man wanted to work at 60 Minutes. What?! Who?!

That would be like me saying I’m the next great mathematician & I can’t give a tip without using a calculator. (FYI, Math and I broke up in high school when he tried to have a threesome with me, numbers and letters.)

He asked the audience to show the hands of the folks who had faced struggles in their life. I glanced through the crowd. I wanted to meet those lucky few with their hands down. (How’s that working out for ya? Could you tell me about this charmed existence?) Pitts talked freely about struggles.

A doctor tried to diagnose him to being “mentally retarded.” One of his professors told him to just quit: telling he was unfit to attend Ohio-Wesleyan University. Then there were the other issues he was facing: trying to break into a predominantly white field, being poor from Baltimore etc…etc…list like these are never short.

He used self-determination and having a clear goal as a way to get to his goal of being on 60 Minutes. At 48, he has achieved that. But this is all discussed in his novel, “Step Out on Nothing.”

Unfortunately, I didn’t record his talk at the Festival of Ideas. However, here is a clip from him doing a reading at Harlem’s Hue-Man Bookstore:

He writes under the premise that people helped him along the way without having any real cause to do so:  a professor at the school, who took him under her wing, a roommate, who gave him words of the day to build up his vocab, etc…etc…because a list like this is never short.

But I disagree with him. If someone has that much passion, that much cahones, that much inner strength to get from being that stutterer kid being made fun of to 60 Minutes, those people could see it. In his eyes, his work ethic and heard it in his stuttered speak that grew less pronounced as he grew older–but hasn’t disappeared. You can see when someone has that something extra.

I’m convinced that everyone has that little extra, that spark, that mad genius, the capacity to pursue a goal with conviction. Living an eco-friendly life, raising children, finding a new clean source of energy, painting, work at being the best damn bricklayer on your crew. Whatever it is, don’t talk about it, be about it.

It’s kind of like watching Man v Food. He looks at the goal of gorging himself with ridiculous amounts of food. He plans a way to do that and then he tries like hell to shove it all down his gullet. If he doesn’t succeed this time, there’s always the next one. Take small steps toward your ultimate goal.

2010 is the year to make it happen, because if not now, then when?