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A Story About Building the World’s Fittest Athletes
- Read in 12 minutes
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- Contains 7 key ideas
Chasing Excellence (2017) provides a revealing look at the mental toughness that is required of athletes who hope to be among the world’s best. Ben Bergeron takes readers behind the scenes to see what it takes to train for world-class competitions, and just how important mental fitness is to an athlete’s overall strength.
Key idea 1 of 7
Commitment requires having a passion and the right habits.
If you’ve been working for a while, you’ve probably noticed a few employees who are content to do the absolute bare minimum that’s being asked of them. They might not be bad at their job, per se, but they certainly don’t have any passion for it.
And passion is the essential ingredient for being committed to your work, mastering a job and coming out ahead, even when the odds aren’t exactly in your favor.
In his TED Talk, entitled “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” Simon Sinek retells the story of the Wright brothers and their competitor, Samuel Pierpont Langley, in the race to build and fly the first airplane.
What many forget is that Langley had far more support and resources at his disposal but what he didn’t have was the kind of passion that was fueling the Wright brothers. So, while Langley was unwilling to personally test his planes, the brothers were committed to building and piloting their machines, which eventually gave them the winning edge. And nobody remembers Langley anymore.
So, a passionate commitment can be critical, but the competitive advantage also goes to those who have the right habits.
This is particularly the case for practicing, each and every day, no matter what. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell points to studies that show how the best violinists are the ones who spent more time playing their instrument. You’ve probably heard of the the famous 10,000 Hour Rule. That’s how much you have to practice before you can master a skill.
However, to achieve excellence, you've got to do more than just log the hours. What sets the great performers apart is deliberate practice, which involves pushing yourself past the normal limits, beyond your comfort zone and to new levels of greatness.
To make sure you’re practicing deliberately, ask yourself, “Am I giving this task my absolute attention?” “Am I using this time to its full potential?” and “What do I need to practice and improve at this stage?”
It’s important to remember, especially when starting out, that any discomfort you may be putting yourself through will pay off in the long run. As the saying goes: no pain, no gain. Waking up at 5 a.m. to go for a run may be the last thing you want to do, but this is the level of commitment that will lead you across the finish line first.