Every important thing needs your best shot

Sunday January 27 2013


Paul Tergat, one of Kenya’s most admired and accomplished athletes globally, is a winner on and off the track. His accomplishments are many, including breaking world records, winning marathons and two silver gold medals at the Olympics. His main rival for the gold medals at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and 2000 Sydney Olympics was Haile Gebrselassie who took first position by slim margins.

When asked about losing the Olympic gold to Gebrselassie by several hundredths of a second, in an interview by Jamie Jackson, published in The Observer on August 1, 2004, Tergat is quoted as saying, “One thing, my friend, you must understand is that I lost when I did the best I could. I didn’t have anything, force or energy, left. So I didn’t feel bad. I took it as a challenge. It was encouraging for the next competition.”

He left it all behind. The man could walk off the track knowing he gave it his best shot, never wondering “what if I had tried harder?”

Life is much like a race, and so our athletes have so much to teach us about living with soulful integrity. A world-class athlete, a world-class mentality and a world-class lesson.

Justifying mediocrity

Do we get it? Unfortunately, we have been guilty of justifying mediocrity and half measures. We know we’ve got potential but instead of benchmarking ourselves against the best in the world, we are content with the shining status compared to our warring neighbours. We do it at the personal level, with our relationships, career, health and wellbeing and finances.

Yet everything you are supposed to be need, requires all of you. Everything that is important requires more than 50 per cent attention and effort. You have to give more. You have to leave it all behind.

Certainly, we may not do this all the time, and with everything. In any case, a world-class athlete understands that life is about priorities, and a world-class life demands the same focus.

Teenage is usually a difficult period for most children and their parents. One of my friends complains that she repeats herself constantly and her daughter never seems to hear what she says. “But I don’t give up,” she told me. “I keep saying it over and over again, trying different things to see what works. One day it will sink in.” She is right.

How do you know you are giving your best shot, or you are leaving it all behind. Trust me, you know. Your eyeballs bulge, you veins feel like they might burst out of your body, you put every ounce of will power you didn’t know you had until that moment into the task at hand. And when you are done, you feel like collapsing. You always know when you have left it all behind. The student studying for an exam knows. The parent with a difficult child knows. The business person who keeps trying against all odds knows.

Sure, we like to say, “I gave it my best shot.” But deep inside we know if we left it all behind or we gave it a 50 per cent shot. The thing is, if you give only half of yourself, you become half of who you are meant to become.