It was almost 15 years ago when I was contacted by a former collegiate shot putter. I’d never met the man before. A mutual acquaintance had passed him my number. He cold called me to ask if he could take me out to dinner. After learning a little more about him and his story, I agreed to meet him for dinner in Athens, GA (where I live). He asked if there was an airport there? I said “yes.” He, then, asked if I knew the length of the runway. I joked “Why? How bigs your plane?” It didn’t occur to me that he actually had a private plane that could fly non-stop from Detroit to Tokyo, meaning it wasn’t little prop plane.
When the man arrived, we met at a local steak house. It was him and his chief of security. My wife thought that was a little strange, so she asked me to call her at the conclusion of dinner. Four hours later I turned my phone’s ringer back on and listened to the messages from my wife become more concerned. It was an honest mistake on my side. I’d forgotten I’d put my phone on silent. Oops.
Those were four of the most rewarding and informative hours of my life. The man was extraordinarily successful by traditional measurements – maybe that’s obvious because of the private plane. Yet, he also seemed to be a genuinely good person. His personal story was one of early struggles, an awesome opportunity, and a huge risk. While he found his “Olympic Gold” in the board rooms of the companies he bought and sold, there were a lot of parallels between his journey and those of my fellow Olympians.
As the night progressed, he drew a picture of a triangle on a note card ( he kept a stack of 3×5 note cards in his pocket or close to him at all times to capture any ideas worth capturing in real time – it’s a GREAT idea).
The three points of the triangle identify three broad categories of human characteristics. He used the triangle to evaluate talent AND, more specifically, perform needs assessments to direct future, personal development opportunities.
One thing that always struck me as significant was at the top of this triangle sat DESIRE. Every successful athlete I know has an intense desire that will magnify other strengths and offset weaknesses or deficiencies. That’s not say it’s the only part. Common sense suggests that you probably won’t be the first 4’9 basketball player to make it in the NBA. However, the gist of this triangle suggests that if you have the minimum threshold of ability (referenced as skill sets) as well as the emotional or psychological orientation to do the job, that your desire (stick-to-it-ness, ability to persevere, drive, want, etc) will determine what level of excellence you reach.
In my experience as an athlete and a coach, there are far more people who could have been great – or at least better than they are now – versus have no talent. Yes, some people are genetically gifted in a manner that seems to allow for immeasurable greatness in a given field. BUT most of us can find greatness by grinding daily for long periods of time to master a specific skill. I like to say to my athletes “The body will punish you in the short-term before it rewards you with new strength, new speed, and new power.” Your challenge is to persevere the short-term so you can reap the greater rewards.
GoldMedalStrong is really about mastering the daily grind. That requires a large dose of Desire, a moderate amount of ability (or skill sets), and mind that thrives in the challenges of the grind. I can help you with a plan for the grind, but you’ve got to do the work!