Being an athlete taught me a lot of things, and fast. Every second and minute that isn’t spent training, is spent on recovering or trying to learn a better way to do what I’m already doing. Success does not come from aimless, dogged practices. It’s about working smart, not just hard. It is about repeatedly doing the right thing, not about doing everything right. Learning to reevaluate your game plan and pivot your course of action or even walk away entirely is fundamental to achieving success.
“I can tell myself with no hesitation that I’m the best at what I do. I earned it. But to become the best, I had to learn a lot of lessons about always being prepared to change direction, and refusing to get sucked into other people’s opinions of what it means to succeed or fail.”
— Tim Grover
One of the most important, but surprising things I learnt was learning to give up and walk away. From a young age, we are taught that success is derived from grit, perseverance and hard work. This isn’t wrong. Consistency and perseverance are imperative to achieving success. Good work takes time, and it means clocking in the hours, day in and day out. By virtue of being an athlete, you must become comfortable with being in pain, and perhaps even learning to love it. Muscles get built by being torn and regrowing back stronger. You literally only get better by enduring the sweat and the pain. But the smartest athletes also know that time is a scarce resource. We only have the same amount of time as the next to be better, faster, and stronger. This means that it is important to be able to quickly realise when something is not working and move in a different direction into a different course of action.
Often times, it is harder to leave than it is to keep fighting. People get caught up in sunk cost. They get attached to the time, effort or money of something they have been investing in. Never be afraid to go back to the beginning, reevaluate your position and strategy, and start again.The worst cost that you can suffer is in fact the one of the unrealised gain of something far greater.
Practicing Habit over Discipline
Discipline is something that is earned, not something you are born with. Most athletes do not start out being disciplined. We are not magically more motivated than others. Athletes know that discipline is built by creating habits. Building good habits take time. Start. Take the action and just do it. I cannot emphasise this enough. The beginning is hard, but eventually habit takes over. Once you build discipline long enough to become a habit, the effort needed to sustain it begins to diminish. Not just for that one thing, but for every area of your life. Doing what is hard starts to become easier.
Every athlete is given the same 24 hours, so you have to figure out how to train smart to get an edge over your competitor. Athletes know that you cannot build strength, improve skill and cut weight all at the same time. Training programs come in phases and have different focuses. Success is created from sequential and focused hard work. Do this often enough and when it is time to peak, get ready for extraordinary results.
This also means learning to prioritise the things that are important. Learn to say no to the things that do not add value to your life in a massive way. By saying no and prioritising the things that are important, you free up space in your life physically and emotionally to create massive results in the areas that do matter. Setting boundaries for what you are willing to do and give, helps you to assess the impact of your actions. By deciding what is worthy, it allows you to give more in the areas that are deserving of your time and energy.
Mimic the Best
It is vital to have great role models. The surest way towards success is to identify the best in the field that you want to succeed in, and mimic what they do. Not just people that inspire you, but people that you can specifically imitate. See what they do, and do it too. Of course, you may have to evaluate and adapt it to fit what works for you. But largely, these people have figured out how to get to where you want to go, so you will definitely be moving in the right direction. Understanding and implementing the steps towards success is already the biggest hurdle overcome.
Everyone Needs a Team
Nobody can go at it alone. You need to build a team of people around you. Athletes always have coaches to guide them. Even in individual sports, it is crucial to train with the best to become the best. Surround yourself with the best, and it will push you to become greater too. When you raise your standards and constantly surround yourself with people who are repeatedly pushing the boundaries, you will too. Greatness is contagious.
Remember always that life is happening forus, not tous. When we begin to truly feel and believe that, we can focus our energy on what is the correct path and the best action to move forward and get there.