If you haven’t already learned, there will always be someone in life who is much smarter and faster than you. We have a tendency to estimate what our true potential is and to put a cap on limits we find to be unsurpassable. Essentially we have a perception that forces us to think those who outperform us in our work, studies or athletics have some sort of gift that we don’t have, therefore there’s no point in working to compete with them or attempt to surpass their successes. If we are to look at Ethiopians and Kenyans in long distance running, no one can argue that they haven’t achieved more than any other country that has competed in the Olympics or World Championships. At the same time, coaches, scientists and running enthusiasts around the world work hard to find what the secret might be. Do they have a special diet? Are they genetically disposed to running fast? Are they training at higher attitudes? Despite how much resolution an answer could bring to these researchers and coaches, the only answer The Ethiopian and Kenyan community has to provide is how they are driven by a tradition of excellence. An Asian country doesn’t outperform any other in math because of their diet, and Europeans don’t play the best soccer because it’s in their genes. The answer that is overlooked and never though of is, and remains, a tradition of excellence. People of different cultures and ethnicities live by the principle that they must work and think like the best. They also make it an obligation to live up to the level of excellence that has been set by previous generations.
You see, the best training happens in the U.S. An elite athlete in America has everything from an endless supply of shoes, food and technology. They can even choose to get massages whenever they desire or easily cross train in new ways. American athletes are blessed with many resources, many of which don’t exist in East Africa. Now this raises the question: “How are they the fastest distance runners?” If we look at where the best come from, we’ll notice they come from areas where people are struggling to survive. This means they grew and ate what was available. Being raised in poverty served as a motivation for most to work hard in running. This is so that some day their success could help rebuild their hometowns. Simply put, they want it more. Now the question still remains. What’s difference between you and someone who outperforms you?
I’m not saying we should all aim to be Olympic athletes or even CEOs of the companies we work for. However, we won’t really know how far we can get in life until we begin to work and think like a person who is capable of achieving great things. So what if your opponent has been better than you for years now? The excuse alone is a way to impede your progress. You’re not a winner until you begin thinking like one. If you fall short of a goal, let that be your motivation to come back as a harder working and internally driven you. After all, you have nothing to lose.