“Only as high as I reach can I grow, only as far as I seek can I go, only as deep as I look can I see, only as much as I dream can I be.” ~ Karen Ravn
So, after announcing my intention to get fit and then taking an almost immediate hiatus from my programme to sit on my ass and watch other people being much fitter than I will ever be, I finally got myself in gear and joined the pool today. And then got into the pool and swam around for a bit.
It was the first time I’ve been in a pool for two years.
Unless you count swimming on holidays, which I don’t, because nobody does proper swimming on holidays.
I’d decided I was going to do fifty widths, and I didn’t stop swimming til I’d done them all.
In fact, I might actually have swum fifty-two or fifty-four, I got distracted trying to write posts in my head and lost count a little bit in the middle.
It took me fifty-five minutes, and I was so slow that they ended up giving me a whole lane to swim in by myself because I was holding everybody up. But y’know that gives me an immediate goal to aim for right there – getting good enough to be allowed to swim in the just plain slow lane.
All the way round I kept this picture of Katie Ledecky in my head, and kept thinking that if a fifteen year old can do it, then so can. I’m going to go every day now, so hopefully I’ll get quicker soon. My strokes were getting more even, even as I was going along, so I’m hoping it won’t be too hard to get back into it.
This little mind over matter exercise then somehow got me on to thinking about a bunch of self-congratulatingly cynical articles that I’ve read lately, about how the world is not really your oyster, and you can’t really do anything you put to mind to.
These sorts of articles seem to spring up around this time every year, they seem to be mostly directed at the teenagers who receive their exam result in August and the university students who are still looking for their first jobs after graduating. And they really, really annoy me.
Leaving aside for a moment the fact that somebody has to play for Manchester United, work for NASA, and win the X Factor, and that not one of those people would so much as get started if they didn’t believe that they were capable. The author’s of these articles do seem hell bent on missing the point.
There are very few people who actually, literally believe that they can do absolutely anything. Nobody can play for Manchester United, and work for NASA, and win the X Factor.
Fortunately our interests, as well as our talents lay across a wide range of areas, which means that’s it’s not particularly unreasonable to go boldly in the direction of your dreams. Especially while you’re young and don’t have any experience on your CV to pigeon-hole you into anywhere else anyway, even if it’s in a highly competitive field you want to work in.
Take our playing for Manchester United example. If you really, desperately want to play for Manchester United, the odds of you achieving your goal are possibly better than you think.
Sure, plenty of other people think they’d like to play for Manchester United as well. But a lot of them, probably most of them, don’t want to put in the amount of work it takes to be good enough to actually do so.
Which means that they don’t actually want to play for Manchester United, they don’t want to do the work that playing for Manchester United involves, the job of a Manchester United player. They just like the idea of it. Which is fair enough.
Most people don’t want to put in the work or endure the sacrifices involved in getting to the top of most things. So if you’re ready to work harder and longer than everybody else, the chances of success are in your favour.
The only other determining factors then are natural ability and opportunity.
The same largely goes for opportunity as for work rate. You have to be prepared to put yourself out there and find opportunities to do the thing that it is that you really want to do, because they aren’t going to be handed to you. Once again you need to willing to do more of this than anyone else. Many people lack motivation, or lose it when they meet obstacles. So while competition may be fierce, if you’re determined and focused, it might not be as tough as you’d think.
Then there’s the natural ability. It helps, but the lack of it can often be made up for with insane amounts of work. Most things can be taught to those who are willing to learn.
And even if it can’t, even if for some reason you spend every waking hour practicing kicking a ball in a straight line with an awesome coach, and you still can’t do it, at least you’ll have learned an impressive amount about football. And there are plenty of other jobs at Manchester United for people who know a lot about football.
There’s the manager for a start. And other types of managers, physiotherapists, nutritionists, sports therapists, coaches, marketing people, financing people, press people, support staff. All of whom get to go to work every day for Manchester United.
And if you can’t work for Manchester United, there are literally thousands of other football clubs in the world. And even more TV stations, newspapers, magazines, and websites that cover every single detail of what happens to those clubs. And businesses which provide a myriad of other services to those clubs, and to their players.
You could always go and work for one of them. After all, it’s a field you already know you love.
It sure beats spending you’re entire working life being bored to tears as a tax accountant because you let somebody tell you that you couldn’t do whatever you wanted. – No offence to tax accountants intended.
As for me, I’m content to let Katie Ledecky, and pretty much anyone else who’s allowed to swim in normal lanes really, be my shining example of what the human body is capable. I don’t want to win a gold medal, I just want to be as good as any other regular swimmer.
And if they can do it, so can I.