When you do what you fear most…you can accomplish anything……Stephen Richards
“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.”
I recently had a few people (within a several day period) ask me how my competitive figure skating during my youth helped shape the foundational elements of my career and perhaps in deciding to start my own business. The most prominent traits that were instilled and developed to such a deep level, very early are: drive, determination and focus. All three of these became strongly interdependent in reaching each level of my skating proficiency and skill.
Drive: being driven is a quest. When you are truly driven you never give up on your ultimate goal(s) no matter what may get in your way. This does not mean that you stay on a path just to stay on it. You have to have the courage to take calculated risks or jump off a train that is going down the wrong track (or is on fire for another example) and catch a new one. More than one path can lead to your goals as obstacles or unexpected problems will inevitably appear along the way. Anticipating these obstacles is a critical skill that will help you reach your goals sooner and I label this as having “strategic insight” and a topic for another post.
Determination: being determined seems simple, but is it really? You can be very determined, but if you lack drive, you will remain still, stuck in place and very frustrated. So what does “being determined” really mean in practical use. For the purposes of our post we will use the Merriam-Webster Online version: “A quality that is used when you want to accomplish something difficult”. There are other versions (which is what makes this topic interesting) but lets stick with the idea that determination is a trait or quality in an individual and that it is used when that individual wants to accomplish something difficult. If you subscribe to this definition, that is a determined individual does not have enough drive (or will) to accomplish the goal targeted, determination and drive alone (although a powerful combination) are still not enough. I believe that once has to insert very strong focus skills to reach the intended goal.
Focus: is not being distracted from your course, prioritizing your resources from the many to a select few activities. Setting the right course and “tuning” out “unnecessary noise or clutter” that will alter your course, slow you down or get in your way of achieving your destination.
I believe that you need equal strength in all three ares of Drive, Determination and Focus to succeed.
So, if I take it back to my skating days, I would add in that you then need to practice with rigor. I can remember learning a new jump and you literally had to try over an over again, with a coach viewing your form, approach and speed and helping you “see yourself” and tweaking something (ever so slightly) until you finally land the jump cleanly. This process did not take a matter of hours, but days (and sometimes far too many of them). Then to be able to land the jump each and every time you needed to (like when it was most important in a competition or proficiency test) you still had to practice every day, “upping your game or performance” by adding additional moves, complexities and skill in your routine. In skating the performances that one sees in the Olympics for example are about 4.5 minutes. In that 4.5 minutes that skater focuses on the precision of the routine that has been practiced to perfection for many months (if not years in the making) prior to what you are watching; exhibits determination to not make a mistake, but intense drive to keep going for the remainder of the performance even if there is a mistake, some which are not readily detected to the much dreaded “fall” in a competition. In this latter occurrence, you see the skater get right back up again and finish their program and is a great example of how drive, determination and focus are keys to long-term success, because even if the face of adversity (falls or other failures) you have to get up, keep going and achieve the success you have trained so hard for!