What Olympic “moments” have inspired you? Maybe it was Michael Phelps winning a gazillion medals or Usain Bolt running faster than the speed of light. For me it was a guy I had never heard of until yesterday, Oscar Pistorius. This guy is phenomenal and puts any attempt to feel sorry for myself into a new perspective. You know the saying, “I was complaining I couldn’t find matching socks until I met a man with no shoes. I grumbled I had no shoes until I met a man with no feet.” Well my version is that I was complaining that I had sore knees until I saw the man with NO knees…….running 400 meters in 40 seconds.
I would be pleased to run 400 meters in 4 minutes, without stopping. Oscar, who was born with no knees, at least enough of his knees were missing that he had both legs amputated before he turned one, would lap me 4 times while I ran it once. He overcame one obstacle after another, blitzed the Paralympics four years ago winning 100, 200 and 400 meter events and is now a contender in the 400 meter semi final in the London Olympics. He’s the Blade Runner, the fastest man on no legs, a very cool looking guy, a sharp dresser and a HUGE inspiration to many.
So what can we learn from Oscar Pistorius? I mean what can those of us who have no Olympic aspirations and little athletic potential learn from this guy? How can we apply his inspiration to our everyday challenges to persevere through the hard times and keep going?
- Stay in the middle of the challenge
Oscar’s mother wrote him a letter five months after his amputation with the instructions not to read it until he was an adult. It said this,
The real loser is never the person who crosses the finishing line last. The real loser is the person who sits on the side, the person who does not even try to compete.
Did she know his future? How amazing and how true! Staying in the middle of challenge is the first rule of perseverance. Active participation in your destiny is winning.
Do you remember Eddie the Eagle in the 1980s? He was reportedly the worst ski jumper to ever compete in the Winter Olympics. The worse he got, the more popular he became. Known as Mr Magoo, he was overweight and farsighted. BUT, he was the first ever Brit to compete as a ski jumper. He was a cultural icon because of his determination and character.
People like Eddie the Eagle and Oscar Pistorius remind us that if you stay in the middle of the challenge, amazing things happen. It doesn’t mean you become the best in the world, just that you win in the broadest sense of the word, as Oscar’s Mom meant it.
Stay with your challenge. You can’t go over, around or under it, just as kids learn about the bear hunt. You have to go through it. I shouldn’t make any promises, but I believe with all my heart that if you persevere with courage and determination that you will experience success beyond your wildest imagination.
2. Reframe the challenge
Oscar Pistorius is an inspiration partly because he reframes his life situation and refuses to let circumstances control his destiny. He stays positive no matter what the challenge. He describes growing up with his brother,
My mother used to tell us in the mornings, ‘Carl put on your shoes, Oscar you put on your prosthetic legs …So I grew up not really thinking I had a disability. I grew up thinking I had different shoes.
That’s called reframing your life with sole. My favorite Pistorius quote is,
You are not disabled by the disabilities you have. You are able by the abilities you have.
You can’t control your genes and you can’t always control your circumstances but you are ALWAYS able to make the most of what you have and the mind is SO much more powerful than genes or circumstance.
In many cases it’s the limitations or disabilities that make your mind stronger because you have to work harder than others, get more creative than others and compensate for limitations with strength of mind. This leads to the third lesson.
3. The Power of Hustle
Hustle is part of the power of perseverance. It’s like the Subway commercial when Michael Phelps swam a lap of the pool, right through the wall of the pool, through the aquatic center walls, through corn fields, carving up the highway as he swam, finally arriving at the Subway restaurant. When you live with hustle, incredible things happen. As the Shakespeare of Germany Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said,
Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!
Hustle includes hours of practice over years of commitment. World famous Cellist, Pablo Casals practiced every day for 4 hours. Someone once asked him, ‘Mister Casals, you are a master, you have accomplished so much. Why do you keep practicing four hours a day even though you are 93 years old?’ He said, ‘Well, I’m finally beginning to notice some improvement.’ Legend has it that he even completed his daily practice on the morning that he died. Casals believed in the power of hustle to keep improving throughout his life.
Will Smith is another hero of hustle. A few years back he gave an interview where he spoke about the secret of success. He described the power of intentions. He said,
Make a choice. Decide what it’s gonna be, who you’re gonna be, how you’re gonna do it. I can create whatever I want to create. We are who we choose to be.
Then the interviewer asked if others without his opportunities could do what he has done. He then spoke about the power of persistence.
The key factor is “I will not be outworked. You might have more talent than me. You might be smarter than me. You might outdo me in 9 categories out of 10. But get on a treadmill together, one of two things is going to happen. You gonna get off the treadmill or I’m gonna die on that treadmill.
Put two people alongside each other; sportspeople, musicians, business people, whoever. The two people have similar genetic makeup. Which one is more likely to succeed? The one who has the burning passion to persist through pain and obstacle, with little sleep and little reason to keep going, but they keep going anyway. The one more likely to succeed is the one who will stand in the flames of struggle to fulfill their dreams. Put two visions or plans alongside each other- the one that is backed by passion will win every time.
In the next piece I describe hustle’s partner in perseverance; inspiration, and my personal experience with perseverance. Combine WILL power with the THRILL power of inspiration and you will beat any odds. Add the STILL power of self acceptance to the mix and you have the trifecta, the triple threat of human spirit.