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During the past years many of my friends on the Olympic squad have asked for my advice on how to make the Olympic team. In addition, my involvement with pre-high school, high school, and college students has made me aware of a great gap in the knowledge of my success methodology. Many seem to be playing a lottery with regard to important life and sport goals.
The intent of this article is to give those without a clue about how to achieve an objective, a path to follow, and to help those `already on the path to keep their feet dry and stay in the right direction.
The first advice I would give is to utilize what I have to say, as you would utilize a tool, not as absolute dogma.
I suppose there are as many different methods to achieve success as there are ways to succeed. The object of my method is the acquisition of one’s goal in the shortest possible time with the least amount of wasted effort. One of the reasons I have been approached so often is due to the fact that I made my first Olympic team within six years of starting from scratch in the sport.
The first priority is to establish your goal. Know what you want to do, and create a goal that is larger than your dream. Prior to 1984, my goal was to become the best international competitor in my sport in the world. My dream was to make an Olympic team. In trying to attain my goal, I realized my dream.
The second priority is to reach out and attain your goal. Obviously, the second priority is one that adds challenge to your life. One must have the direction of strength and of purpose, and the greater your inner strength, the greater your chances of achieving your goal.
Once the two major priorities have been established internally, one must develop the methodology for making them external realities. The following points generalize the basic approach of my methodology.
Once you establish your goals, you must study the situation and create the best circumstances for attaining your goals. In 1978, I looked around at both sports and the best athletes that were in them. At the age of twenty-two, I had never participated in sports. I realized immediately that it would be an enormous task to become a professional athlete in one of the major sports. The major or individual sports had individuals that had started training at a very early age. In addition, the size of the major sport made it to competitive, considering the number of athletes that started training at an early age. Therefore, the first thing to do was to find a sport that I liked, that would allow me to utilize my physical and mental abilities to the maximum, against a more reasonable pool of competitors. This is what I mean by creating the best circumstances and giving yourself the best chances.
Look around you. Perceive your sport. Who is the best coach in the country for this particular sport? Who has the best reputation and the best competitors as a pool of students? Absolutely make that coach yours! Whatever it takes, make it so. No matter how hard it is, stick to that coach like glue. That coach will probably have a million things to do, and more successful students that he wants to concentrate on. It is your job to become as familiar to that coach as an old pair of shoes. Do so, and you cannot fail.
That is to say, find where the greatest competition of your sport is located, get your things together, and get there. In order to reach a certain level, you must have competitors that can take you there. You will find that the coach you are looking for and the competitors you need are in the same area. Both the second and third points are critical. If you do not follow these points, you will not reach your goal. There are no excuses. It’s your dream—how much do you want it?
Commit yourself totally to your goal, whatever sport you choose. Only the individuals who possess the courage to gamble everything on their goal will be able to attain their goal. Once I determined my priority goal, all else was utilized in the attainment of that goal. College and job future were all designed to allow me to train and compete. This is not easy thing to do in this country, but once you have chosen your priority, you must sacrifice all to that priority. That is not to say that the educational and career goals that you will pick up will be wasted or compromised, only that it is very difficult, and you may have to make hard decisions to stay on the chosen path.
Edison once said something to the effect that genius is ten percent inspiration, and ninety percent perspiration. Absolute hard work with total concentration is necessary to achieve success. During your development, enter every competition possible. Compete against your peers at every opportunity. Doing this teaches you how to win, and hopefully to help you understand why you lose, when you lose. You must learn to do both well in order to succeed. This exposure trains your competition skills, and like steel, tempers your strength and courage in the heat of competition.
Practice at every opportunity. You must train and take lessons every day. Your sport must become as easy and natural to you as driving a car is to an accomplished motorist. When you go to practice, waste little time talking and socializing