I'm here to tell you something that will change your life. Everyone wants to put Michael Phelps above them. To say he had more talent than anyone else. That's not true. Yes, he is talented. But if you look beyond his talent you'll find 14-16 hour days of practice for 10 straight years. You'll find a dream he always had since he was young. You'll find out he wanted to give up as many times as you did.
Michael Phelps was meant to be a swimmer. There's no doubt about that. He knew at a young age what he was good at. Most of us find something we're good at and just do it for fun, then we get a career doing something we don't like or it just pays well. For Phelps, it was his singular goal to be the best and he had talent to back it up. That's not to say he is the most talented. There are thousands of incredible swimmers all over the world. Michael wanted it more. He prepared more. He ate better. He trained harder. He trained with his eyes closed in preparation for his next race just in case his goggles fell off.
Here is another story about a well known athlete. This should help diminish all doubts you have in what it takes to be the best in your field. With the desire to win and the talent that is specifically yours, you can not be beaten. I read once that Kobe Bryant asked for a jersey with the the number 24 to symbolize to himself that being the best is a 24 hour job. That is the type of person Kobe is. Here is another story about Kobe in the 2012 Olympic games.
The coach for the Olympic basketball team gave a personal account of working with Kobe that year. He said he received a call from Kobe at 4:15AM one morning. Kobe wanted help with his conditioning work. Coach Roberts got to the gym 20 minutes later and found Kobe dripping sweat from doing sprints for the last 30 minutes (It was not even 5:00AM yet!). The coach helped Bryant with strength training for the next hour and then went back home and left Kobe in the gym. On the way out, Coach Roberts saw Kobe head back to the gym and start shooting hoops.
Around 11:00AM the coach came back in. Everyone was there ready to start practice and Roberts looked over to see Kobe alone shooting hoops. He decided to talk to Kobe for a minute and walked up to him. He said "What time did you finish up this morning?" and Kobe replied "This is my last shot. I wanted to make 800 shots before practice started."
Just so you're clear, here is the schedule Kobe keeps during season:
- 4:15AM Sprints 1 hour
- 5:15AM Weight training 1 hour
- 6:15AM - 11:00AM Make 800 shots
- 11:00AM - 6:00PM Practice with the team
I'd also like to point out. This was his schedule after ALREADY being a 5 time NBA Champion, 14 time NBA All-star and 4 time MVP! It's important to recognize that the goal was not to make shots for X amount of hours. His goal was more tangible, he chose 800 makes. Do you think he needed to learn how to jump-shot still? No, of course he didn't, but the point was to be the best in the NBA, to rise to the occasion, to be world class. To be the best, you have to work harder than everyone else even if you have talent.
Knowing what you know now about Kobe, do you find any reason why he shouldn't have succeeded? Without a doubt he wanted every title bad and earned it every time. Who do you know that works that hard? They're a rare breed, but they are the people who change the world. Kobe made over 200 million dollars in his career, but the money never slowed him down. He never stopped earning it as most athletes do. Give whatever you do, all you can.
Here is a cool video with some world-class athletes talking about what it takes.
Martin J Glennon