At a recent business cocktail function the WA swimmer Eamon Sullivan was interviewed about his illustrious career, which has included a world championship gold and a bronze, 2 Olympic silvers and bronze, as well as various world records.
A major take away for me was his honest self appraisal of his failure to win gold at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, despite having the 100m freestyle world record at the time (which he had broken in the semis). He put it down to a ‘classic and unforgivable error’ in the final, as he concentrated more on what his opponent might do, than on what he was about to do.
‘All coaches tell you, never worry about your opposition or concentrate on what they might do. Concentrate on your own skills, your own game, your own stroke, and what you can control. My failure to do this cost me the gold, and it’s something I have to live with, and I know I’ll regret it for the rest of my life.’
You might think he’s being pretty tough on himself, but it’s a really important point. In life generally, we can often get caught up in what others might do. We cannot control what they do. We are only in charge of what we can do, and that’s what we should focus on. Our own performance. Our own skills. Consistently. Persistently. Patiently. Avidly.
We can control what time we turn up for work, what calls me make, how we make them, what we say in client and staff meetings, what we prioritise. We are in control of what we put off for later in the day, or tomorrow. We determine what we do now, and how we do it.
What Eamon reminds us, is that we need to make sure, no matter what, we do the best we can do. For no matter what result occurs, we do not want to have to ponder what we might have done better. Looking back on an exam result, a sales proposal or a potential partner meeting, you do not want to be thinking ‘what might have been if only I’d…’.
It’s obviously something Mr Sullivan is learning to live with, in relation to his big moment, 8 years ago. So, I ask you – are you going to focus* on what you can do, or get distracted by what others might do?
* Or as someone once eloquently put, focus means “focus on your own s**t”.