Friday, 22 August 2008

The Price of Success

I had just finished teaching couple of classes at a local health and fitness centre and was leisurely making my way back home when this young boy streaked past me in full flight. It was a beautiful sight. He had this lovely, long fluid stride. He reminded me of a gazelle. Without even consciously thinking about it I found myself in hot pursuit.

Let me hasten to add that I don't make it a habit of running after young boys but my motive will become clear. It was my guess that the teenager was rushing to catch a bus that had just past us. And this is one of those times when age, or rather maturity, has its advantages over the impetuousness of youth. I analysed the pedestrian and vehicular traffic and reasoned that I could run at a fast jog and still catch the same bus.

My estimations were spot on and I caught the bus with my breathing still steady. I espied my quarry ahead of me and walked up to him. He was clearly out of breath and I allowed myself a smug smile. Come on, I'm only human. I spoke to the teenager.

"I saw you run back there. Have you ever thought of taking up athletics?"

"Nah," he said. "Too much hard work."

Up until then, I had buoyant and light. Suddenly, I felt deflated. I know my actions were a bit extreme but young people are often criticised and I wanted to give this young man a compliment and some encouragement that's why I had chased after him. I wanted him to recognise that he had talent - something which he could cultivate.

It wasn't the first part of his response that disappointed me. After all, athletics may not have been his cup of tea. It was the second part of his answer - "Too much hard work".

I felt, intuitively, that unless this young man changed his attitude that he would not achieve much of any significance in life. For nothing in life is achieved without hard work. The consolation is that when you love what you do it doesn't feel like hard work.

I recently asked someone if they had been watching they Olympics and their answered stunned me. They said:

"No, it looks too easy."

Now there have been enough foul-ups, bleeps and blunders for anyone to recognise that what Olympic athletes go through is anything but easy. Of those who excel, their performances look easy because of the hours upon hours of training that they have put in. Many of them make extraordinary sacrifices to reach the Olympic stage and, in general, they have to stay focused and committed over a period of four years.

This is why passion for what you do is so important. If the young man had told me that he didn't enjoy athletics I could have lived with that but his response left me feeling momentarily despondent.

Remember that success can be yours if you're willing to pay the price for as Vince Lombardi said:

"Dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you're willing to pay the price."

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