12 January 2014
It’s an age old argument. Is success, whether in sport or business learned or is it instinct? Are some people just naturally talented, or can anyone do anything with the right surroundings?
I don’t believe in talent as something you are born with. I think it’s very simple. Talent is learnt and instincts are developed.
And because we learn things from such an early age, by the time anyone notices that a person has a “natural gift” for something, we discount the thousands of hours that that person will have invested along the journey and we describe their talent as instinctive.
Remove the influences of David Beckham’s father, a man who encouraged him from a very early age and helped him train when other parents stayed at home, and would he have been as talented? No, he’d be like the thousands of other people who “could have been.”
A real life example of a sports person who actually did lose his Dad and subsequently fell from grace in every way is Tiger Woods. His father made Tiger rehearse and rehearse every shot, simulating pressure, banging drums, trying to distract him, knowing one day, out on the fairway, he would be subjected to all sorts of distractions, so he prepared him for everything.
When his father sadly passed away, Tiger’s training regime was disrupted and he had no-one to hold him accountable. The result impacted on his personal and professional life.
I could go on listing sports people, Stephen Hendry who altered his training rhythm when he fell in love and got married. Less time on the practice table and there is always someone looking to knock you off your number one spot.
It’s a fascinating debate because there are so many variables involved over such a long period of time in every successful person’s journey.
It’s too easy to pass someone off as “talented” and dismiss all the reasons why you never made it in a particular field, where you could have been a contender.
If we all experienced the same intensity from an obsessive coach or parent, we’d all have the first step needed to be a great contender.
The problem is, we grow up, we get distracted and the world is full of people who might have been, but they lacked that bit of something. The familiar story and the biggest of all distractions is celebrating. Some people do it every weekend, some once a month, some once a year. But partying has to be the number one downfall of every potentially successful person.
There is a time to celebrate, but if you are working hard to achieve a goal, especially in sport, you need to be at the top of your game, both mentally and physically. Breaking that winning routine for a second is the difference between winning and losing when you get to the top of your profession.
If you talk with any of the British Cycling team, you will see how seriously the entire team take training, their health and their sleep. Look how “talented” their team is, yet they continue to learn and develop new ways to improve. Every day, tiny improvements mount up so that when you look back a year or so later, you are a different class from when you started. To give you an idea of their obsession, when the team travel to a meet, they take their own mattresses so they can guarantee a good night sleep! I can’t tell you all the things I know as some of them are top secret and are really mind blowing! This is why they are winning! They are learning new ways to develop and improve.
If you want to get serious about being successful in business, the same applies. Whilst you are enjoying yourself congratulating yourself on a job well done, there is someone else, reading and learning new ways to do things, asking the question, “How do I become the best in this field?” If you are not experimenting and fine tuning every aspect of every process to make your business stronger, someone somewhere else will be.
This is the hard reality of getting good at something. Ironically, it’s staying the best at something that is even harder. Why? Because everyone wants that coveted number one spot and looking over your shoulder distracts you from the road ahead.
I am working with the world number one female squash player. I believe that women are potentially as strong physically as men. Now I know what you are thinking now, that this is nonsense, but stop and ponder this.
Yes, in today’s society, men are stronger than women. I concede. In the future? NEVER!
Why am I so sure?
Look how women have evolved since 1900, since Emmeline Pankhurst dedicated her life to changing history making sure women could vote and had basic rights that men had. It’s safe to say women have developed more in society, socially and physically since that point in history.
I believe there is still more to do and society is still holding women back, albeit unintentionally. I have 3 girls and I can see already at school the boys get an area of the playground at break where they all play football. They are being encouraged to compete. Every minute of every day they are getting stronger and stronger. The girls are left to their own devices and not surprisingly they spend a great deal of time falling out. More importantly they are not developing their competitive streak or their strength. This is happening in nearly every school across Britain. The result, everyone assumes boys are stronger than girls.
If you are still in doubt, how is it then that some girls can beat some boys at some sports? Or put another way why is it not all boys are stronger than all girls?
The answer is down to the investment in time in a chosen area. Whoever invests the most time and dedicates their life will become the better. I have big disagreements on this subject with my squash coach, who believes that women are inherently weaker. However, he along with everyone else has grown up, indoctrinated with this thought pattern.
When someone challenges the current status quo, when one women stands up to the mark and beats the best man in the world in a sport, everything will change as quickly as it did in the 12 months after Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute mile. What was deemed impossible, in the following year was broken by 21 people. It was easy when people knew what was possible.
In that same year, if you compared the worlds fastest woman, Florence Griffith who ran the 100 metres at 10.49 she would have beaten every one of the six finalists at the 1952 Olymipc games, whose winner ran it in 10.79.
The fact that I compare eras is to demonstrate the effect of social conditioning on the outcome. The difference in approach of the athlete in 1988 will have been very different to that of the man’s in 1952. Start changing the way girls are treated at school and you will start seeing a difference out there on the field later down the line.
This argument is transferrable to many sports. Any one of todays incredible woman tennis players could have beaten anyone of the old school tennis players of yesteryear. Its just a matter of time, belief and encouragement, all necessary components of success. All necessary in positive social conditioning of our future generations.
What is really exciting though is that everyone can develop faster. Men, women, children, businesses, vehicles, everything. If you create the right environment, you develop faster, no one can argue that. And this has to be our ultimate goal. Start focussing on our schools and parenting and give our children and future generations more belief and better tools to become winners.
I’d love to hear your point of view on the subject and how you think we can improve and where you think we need to start first?