The Real Talent: Effort and Consistency

I have been discovering the same message in many different places lately. The key to performing to the best of your abilities, becoming an elite level athlete, or simply achieving your goals is not a pure gift of talent, rather it is the amount of effort and consistency that you put forth in your pursuits.

The first direct quote that made me think about this message was from my father. He sent me this quote from a book that he is reading:

"You'd be surprised at how many people don't associate effort with results. Remember, we live in an age of lotteries, casinos, and instant YouTube fame. A lot of folks think it's all about luck. That's why we stress purpose and perseverance . . ."

~ From The Elder, by Marc Cooper

This is an interesting take on the concept. We live in this society that does not always see perseverance, effort, or consistency as positive traits, but they are wrongly considered to be traits that encourage suffering or sacrifice. Two words that do not need to have such negative connotations. Sacrifice can be a very positive thing when it is in pursuit of a greater sense of satisfaction. An athlete who wins an olympic medal has not enjoyed every second of the training to reach that point, but I bet there are not many who would exchange that medal for an extra day off or second helpings of ice cream.

Another place where the level of fortitude and effort in competition was prevalent was the coverage of the Australian Open Tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia. The athletes competing at the top level of sport stress the routine and specificity even during the match. Rafael Nadal must have his water bottles a certain way, and he must be in control of every detail. After playing 5 hours of grueling tennis the players must maintain a focus and concentration that Novak Djokovic (current world #1 in tennis) explained comes from consistency and effort in training. When you get that far into a match, the one who has worked the hardest will be the best prepared, not the one with the most talent.

Nicholas Lidstrom is another example of excellence in his given field. He is the captain of the Detroit RedWings, winner of four Stanley Cups, and 7 Norris Trophies (best defenseman in the NHL). He is one of the most respected players in the league, by his peers. This is for his humbleness, constancy, and level of professionalism in the sport. There was a special on recently where he was highlighted. Every home game he has the same routine. He trains a certain way, eats the right things, and mentally prepares himself for the game ahead. Lidstrom logs the most ice time of any member on his team at the 'old age' of 41. He is still playing some of his best hockey through his pursuit and dedication to the game.

The last source that I'll mention today comes from Lance Armstrong. Love him or hate him he is the greatest cyclist of all time. Even Lance, or I should say, especially Lance, knows that you cannot rely on talent alone. In his 2003 book, Every Second Counts, he is explaining the concept of being a professional to a young professional (ironically), Floyd Landis. He said, "You aren't born a professional. You have to turn yourself into one. You have to do the right things. You have to eat right. You have to sleep right.... (when talking about his 1999 Tour de France Victory) It was a matter of better training, better technique, and a willingness to make sacrifices. If you want to do something great, you need a strong will and attention to detail... The common denominator to successful people in this world (in any field) is that they're all capable of sustained, focused attention.

To achieve the greatest performances effort and consistency are the ingredients. That is true on all scales. It does not matter if you are trying to win a world championship, or complete your first 5k. Giving your best effort and maintaining consistency in your pursuit will allow you to reach your own top step of the podium.

Train smart, train hard, and have fun!