One of the constants in competitive sports is hearing about wonder kids. The other constant is the fact that most of these wonder kids don’t make it. I’ve been reading excerpts from a book called “Next, Next Big Thing” that profiles 15 such football/soccer wonder kids and the stories in there are very poignant.
The wonder kids share powerful stories about their journey exposing various factors like injuries, a bad relationship with a coach, personal problems, timing, etc., that got in their way of becoming top flight footballers.
The stories reminded me of a chance conversation in London with a train ticket inspector who was an Academy player at Chelsea football club. He shared that most of the high potential kids stop playing because of injuries. The ones who emerge are either lucky to avoid them or have incredible mental strength to find a way back.
Similarly, reading each excerpt has been a profound reminder of both the importance of mental strength when the chips are down and the power of luck in shaping any success.
While we tend to have plenty of conversations about the former (“grit,” “perseverance,” etc.), we often neglect attributing our success to the latter. Perhaps we should… and perhaps we’d appreciate what’s good in our careers a lot more when we do.
Venture capitalist and blogger Tom Tunguz nicely summarized Robert Greene’s book “Mastery” by identifying two common paths to mastery – mentorship and grit.
Leonardo da Vinci’s story captures both ideas. Leonardo was born out of wedlock and was prohibited from attending school. His father, a notary, had access to a large supply of paper which was a rare commodity at the time. So, Leonardo would walk through the forests of Vinci and draw. Over time, he built an excellent body of work that led to Andrea Del Verrochio to hire him as an apprentice. Leonardo would go on to learn many different sciences under his mentor and become a master artist.
As he was still scorned because of his birth, Leonardo demonstrated grit as he pursued hundreds of inventions including helicopters, parachutes, and a giant crossbow. This combination of an education from a leading expert and grit led Leonardo da Vinci to greatness.
Tying it into his work with entrepreneurs, Tom observed – “I suspect all great founders and CEOs are supported by a network of great mentors. Most of these mentorship relationships are hidden in the shadows, not often mentioned. But that lack of visibility belies their critical importance.”
A few times in my life, I have been privileged to have amazing mentors and all of those experiences share something in common. Those people helped me learn something about myself that I couldn’t have without them: they pushed me to start a business, they challenged me to carry a quota, they offered me an opportunity in venture capital. – Tom Tunguz
Source and thanks to: Tom Tunguz’s blog, Mastery by Robert Greene
I love swimming when I have the opportunity. But, every time I walk to the pool to swim and first touch the water, the resistance shows up and exaggerates the feeling of discomfort. Even though I’ve learnt that I’ll get comfortable within 10 seconds of actually swimming, I’m amazed as to how my mind does such a poor job of predicting my eventual happiness. This is especially hard if the pool isn’t deep – it works much easier if I can just jump in.
But, a tactic that works incredibly well is to remember my experience jumping into much colder water in much cooler weather when I was on a 3 month project in Pune, India. Having survived Pune (and learnt a few lessons in the process), it becomes much easier to sign up for the ride. After all, if I’ve survived worse, how bad can this be?
The lesson I’ve learnt from this is the sheer value of hard knocks, failures and bad experiences. When you put yourself out there and attempt to do/change things, you inevitably go through difficult experiences. And, these experiences, especially the really difficult ones, greatly improve your ability to persist and persevere through other experiences. They also make it easier to keep perspective when things go wrong – you survived “Pune” after all.
We aren’t born with grit and happiness written on our birth certificate. The good stuff is always hard earned.