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You Have to Want it As Bad As You Want Oxygen

There are two brothers walking on the beach just talking. The younger was in his early 20’s and the older was in his early 30’s. The younger brother, intrigued by the older brother’s success in life, asks, “How did you become so successful?”

“Well,” the older brother replies, “I can show you if you want but you have to do exactly as I say.”

The younger brother agrees. “OK, walk out into the water” he is told. The younger brother takes his shoes off and steps into the water; the waves washed over his feet and flowed past his ankles. He then looks up at his brother, who has followed him in, as if to ask, “now what?”

“Further out,” the older brother instructs. Somewhat confused as to what this had to do with his initial question, the younger brother walks further out into the ocean until the water was now at his knees. The older brother does the same. Again the younger brother looks at his brother for approval.

“Keep going.” The younger brother hesitates but complies. This time, he walks until the water is at his chest.

Keep going,” the older brother says again while pointing further out. The younger brother takes a few more steps and the water is now just below his chin! The older brother stands next to him (though, he is much taller) and asks, “So you want to know how I have become so successful in life?”

The younger brother nods yes.

“OK then,” the older brother replies before quickly pushing his younger brother’s head under the water. The younger brother starts flailing in panic but the older brother, who is much bigger and stronger, holds him under for about ten seconds before letting him up to gasp for air.

“What the hell?!” the younger brother choked.

“If you want to be successful in life then whatever it is that you want, whatever you are trying to achieve, you have to want as bad as you wanted a breath of oxygen while you were under water. If you fight for your goals as hard as you fought for air just now, you will be successful like me.”

Before I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis one of my best friends and I were both aspiring fictional writers but we often had issues with motivation as many undisciplined writers do. I am not sure where he heard this but he told me this story in his own words and it has always stuck with me. Now that I have MS and am constantly faced with new struggles in life, this story has a somewhat different meaning to me. Not only does it still apply to my desires of becoming successful in a career or a hobby but also it now applies to my health.

MS takes things away from us; many of the things that I used to do in life, that made me ME, I am no longer able to do. I had no problem letting certain things go, I am ok knowing that I will probably never ride a motorcycle again but when I was stuck in a wheelchair in 2012 and told by my (at the time) quack of a neurologist that I probably would not walk unassisted ever again because “this is the course of the disease,” I thought of this story. I was not willing to accept her prognosis, I wanted to walk, I wanted to walk on my own and even though I had no idea how I would achieve this at the time, I thought, “if I want it as bad as someone who is drowning wants air, I will find a way”.

It took a lot of hard work. I practiced getting out of my wheelchair and walking every day at home; first with a walker and then with a cane. I did all the exercises I could remember from the inpatient physical therapy hospital I had spent 6 weeks in. All I could think about was walking on my own and proving my “MS specialist” wrong and you know what? About 1 year later I was in Ireland walking around Dublin about 6 miles a day on my own two feet, not even a cane. So though I still have my issues with motivation, especially when I am so fatigued, in pain and fogged up in the brain, I always think of this story to try to get me up and moving. I know what it is I want so really? It’s just a matter of how bad I want it.

“You have to want it as bad as you wanted a breath of oxygen while you were under water.”

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Loopyone
    3 years ago

    I find it hard to believe that you walked 6 miles without a cane after what you had been thru. I’m sorry but I know I could not do that between fatigue and bad balance.

  • Matt Allen G author
    3 years ago

    Haha just because you can’t believe it doesn’t mean it’s not true, I did, I can send you a detailed map of where I got off the bus and where I walked to. I will never forget as now I can barely walk ONE mile.

  • jenne
    3 years ago

    Sorry, I don’t buy the mind over matter theory. In fact, I find it insulting; I can’t walk because I don’t want it bad enough?!? Just count yourself lucky that your MS hasn’t progressed to the point where not accepting it is not an option. Being “wheelchair bound” is not a moral failing. Shame on you all!

  • Matt Allen G author
    3 years ago

    You misunderstood, because I don’t buy it either, and my MS HAS passed that point by a long shot, all I am saying is in order to achieve our goals we have to work for it, and working for it is not easy, I myself have such bad issues with motivation, so I have to REALLY get myself “to want it”, but no, that doesn’t make you walk better, see better, or feel less pain, but it can get you to exercises when you don’t really feel like it.

  • potter
    3 years ago

    People often ask me why I don’t have a handicap parking sticker. I just tell them that my doctors won’t give me one, they just want me to keep on walking. That’s a lie but it easier to tell them that then to explain why I think it is important for me to keep on walking as long as I can. Denice Congrats on the determination.

  • Matt Allen G author
    3 years ago

    I am the same way, so long as my legs move I am going to keep trying because I feel that if I stop I will lose that ability; “if you don’t use it you lose it” right haha?

  • Nobu
    3 years ago

    Matt – that is so impressive. You are inspiring me to do more leg exercises! Nancy

  • Matt Allen G author
    3 years ago

    Be inspired to WANT it :p

  • @masbrautigam
    3 years ago

    What a great story.I am often thinking what will happen when i cannot walk.I just hope i do not forget this story.

  • Matt Allen G author
    3 years ago

    IDK if I will ever forget this story, all I really need to remember is that I have to “WABT IT”

  • Diana M.
    3 years ago

    Powerful comments, Matt. Thank you.

    I’m working on a writing career, too, right now, and I know how hard it can be to make myself write when I want to be doing something easier. MS is part of my motivation to get things done now and not procrastinate forever. I don’t have forever! Who knows what I do have? Whatever I have, I want to use living the life God put me here to live.

    Congratulations on your achievement with your walking.

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