Figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, attacked by a man with a club, coming back to medal in the 1994 Winter Olympics. Gymnast Kerri Strug, vaulting on a severely injured ankle to help the United States secure the team gold medal at the 1996 Olympics. Tennis player Monica Seles, stabbed on the court by a deranged fan of her rival, then coming back to medal in the 2000 Olympics.
We love these comeback stories. They inspire us. But the author wants you to be more than inspired. He wants you to realize that this ability to dig down and find that extra gear when you really need it is something that you already have inside yourself.
Take a moment right now. Think back on such a moment in your life, when you had to decide not to quit. When you had to decide to give even more than what you thought was your best. Now imagine making that determination, that extra gear, a permanent part of you. Something you can call upon whenever you need it. Something that will propel you to victory—or, at the very least, force your opponent to find his or her extra gear just to have a chance at beating you.
That’s what makes a champion. It’s not about what God gave you—not even if you happen to have been born half-dolphin like Michael Phelps, or with the mental horsepower of a savant. It’s about how you choose to live your life every day: being coachable and hungry to learn; being committed to the process of continuous self-improvement; believing that you have that special “extra gear” to call on when you really need it, and that win, lose, or draw, you’ll rise above fear and self-doubt (your greatest enemies) and give everything you’ve got, no matter the outcome.
These are the three things you need to be the absolute best, to be a meaningful force in the universe—not just in athletics but also in your career, in your relationships, in every single thing you do.
If you think that whatever happens to you is just a matter of “good luck” or “bad luck,” then whenever you run into an obstacle, you’re going to believe that it’s out of your control. “I’m just a victim of fate!”
You don’t want to be that person. You want to be the person who sees that obstacle as just another kind of opportunity. You want to believe that the hard work of practicing, training, and rehearsing for success will give you the right mindset to turn troubled times into valuable lessons that get you closer to your goal.
When opportunity and preparation come together, you can do almost anything. Being prepared for opportunity is a lot better than wishing, hoping, betting, or playing the lottery. Ultimately, you must believe in something larger than luck. You must have the focus to set goals. And you must have the determination to work hard, to be deliberate and intentional in everything you do, so that you will be prepared when opportunity knocks.
Opportunity will knock. Who will answer?
No matter what you do—whatever sport, whatever job, whatever part of your life—you should always want to get better at it. Never get content with where you are. Never rest on your laurels. Never settle for “good enough.”
Sometimes, that means finding someone that you really respect, someone who will be truthful with you and give you honest feedback. If you can find someone like that in your life, it’s a real blessing! Everything starts with attitude. If you don’t have the right attitude, your behavior is going to follow suit, and you’ll never be able to perform at a high level. Not just in athletics. It goes way beyond that. Academically, socially, it’s all about controlling your own mindset.
The way you see yourself, and the way you see the situations around you every day—that’s going to control everything. If it’s not working, then you have to start seeing things through a different lens, a different perspective. Because in the end, no matter what you do, it’s not about talent. It’s about what’s going on inside your own head!
What is love, after all? To love someone is to admire, encourage, support, protect, plan for, look beyond the faults of, focus on the needs of, forgive (because you do not want anything to diminish the love), give attention to, look after, instruct, and not give up on. To love someone is to do all these things.
And to love yourself is to do all these things for yourself. If you go through life denying yourself this love, what happens? You undervalue yourself, you esteem the qualities of other people instead of your own, you criticize yourself, you see only your mistakes and shortcomings, you see everything in your life in a negative light, and you spend all your time and energy trying to make yourself better, hoping against hope that one day you’ll be able to accept yourself.
You become your own worst enemy. But when you finally allow yourself to love yourself, amazing things happen. This is where the power of choice and free will becomes so important. You have to make a decision to start loving yourself. You have to be deliberate and intentional about it. You have to make this a project in your life. Something you will commit to working on every day.
Yes, it’s your life and your responsibility, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help when you really need it. Too many of us are trained from an early age to consider asking for help a sign of weakness. But here’s something important to realize: many of the most successful businesspeople, entertainers, and just regular people enjoying great lives were able to achieve their success by accepting help from someone else at some key point in their life. If you want to become more comfortable with the idea of being able to ask for help.
The author suggests doing three things: Read or watch a biography of someone you really admire. If you delve deeply enough into the life of any great man or woman, you’re all but certain to find that they allowed someone to help them at one time or another. (Martin Luther King, Jr., Helen Keller, Bill Gates, Michael Jordan . . . I could go on for days.) It was okay for them to ask, and it’s okay for you, just as you will be asked to help someone else someday. Once you’ve decided that you will ask for help, you need to identify the times when you really need it. Now, if you start going around asking people for money or other material things, you know that those people will start to avoid you or view you with suspicion. The author is talking about asking someone for advice, for support, for direction. Those are more valuable than the material things, anyway, and probably what you really need help with. Finally, be clear on what you’re really asking for. Take the time to sort out what you actually need in your life. In fact, write it down. That way, you’ll be clear when you articulate what you need.