“When you look at people who are successful, you will find that they aren’t the people who are motivated, but have consistency in their motivation.” Arsene Wenger
When I was a kid, my motivation was really on and off. I remember in first grade, there was a tryout for some karate class. They had us do all kinds of tests like running, push ups, sit ups…etc. and then they selected the best people to get into the class. I did not make it.
I got pissed and made my mom go beg the instructor of another karate class to let me in, even though the class had already started. Finally, after a lot of begging, they let me into the class. Let’s just say that at that time, I was really physically untalented.
The good thing about the class was that it wasn’t just about karate, but also about developing overall physical fitness for little kids. At the beginning, I was pretty bad. However I started practicing at home, doing all kinds of exercises and very fast I got my act together, got faster, stronger and more coordinated and made it to the top of the class.
Then I lost motivation and gave up. This type of thing would repeat itself all throughout my school years. I would go for short burst of intense effort (both mental and physical), and then I would just give up. After a while, I was begging my mom to unsubscribe me from the class.
One factor in this was the fact that I was young and when you are young you don’t realize that you only have a limited amount of time. I felt like I had a lot of time to spare and would act like it. Part of my lack of motivation also had to do with laziness, part of it with the fact that we moved around all the time (I went to 6 schools in 12 years), and part of it had to do with the fact that I just didn’t like to put out too much effort, instead coasting on my talent.
All in all, I just didn’t like doing things that made me feel uncomfortable. If I could avoid doing them, then I would.
One moment that still haunts me happened in my senior year of high school. I was on the track team, ran sprints (100m, 200m, 400m) and was pretty fast. We were running the divisional finals. I was pretty mad. All year, I had been posting solid times, but the local newspaper had labelled two other guys as the favorites to win the sprints and stated that there was nobody even close to them.
I beat one of those guys last year and the other one I never faced. I posted similar times as them and I should have been one of the favorites. So I arrived at the track meet, a man on a mission. Or at least I thought.
The first race I ran was the 100m final. I got in the blocks next to one of the guys labelled as the favorites. I was never good at starting out of the blocks, but I was ready. Then something happened. The favorite next to me jumped the gun by a milisecond and so did the other favorite. I was expecting them to go for a repeat start, but they didn’t. The gun went off a few miliseconds after, but that is an eternity in the 100m sprint. That cost me the race. The race should have been restarted, but wasn’t. Nothing I could do about it.
I came in third, a bit disappointed, but then a few minutes later I found out that I ran my personal record (11.1 seconds) and my time was fast enough to qualify me into the big all-divisions final. There, I would end up racing against the fastest high school sprinters in the world (but that is another story).
However it was not this moment that haunts me. I did feel a bit cheated that I lost due to someone else doing a false start, but I still had the 200m to look forward to. One of the supposed favorites pulled out, which left me with only one other contender. I beat this guy last year by a pretty good margin. I was sure I was going to win.
We went down into the blocks, got ready, the gun blasted and we were off. I was leading the race. I was running fast in first place, but a little by little I was starting to feel tired, the lactic acid was starting to make my legs feel heavy. I was in the final straight, a few meters before the finish…
At that moment, instead of gritting my teeth and giving my best effort and going for the last push, I did the opposite. I was in the lead, felt tired and gave up. I slowed down a bit, coasting towards the finish.
Then I saw the other guy speed past me. He had done the opposite of me, he had mustered the last amount of strength and raced past me, collapsing just behind the finish line, totally winded and out of power. I came in second, happy that I gave it my “best” and that I got a medal. I was happy with second place.
However that came back to haunt me. Even now, entering my early thirties, I still look at that moment with despair. I had victory at my fingertips and I let it slip away. The other guy had more heart. He was more motivated to win and mustered the last amounts of willpower and strength in order to do that. I didn’t.
I just wasn’t motivated enough. That lack of motivation defined my early life. I now look back at this and want to beat my head against the wall. Sure, the circumstances were against me (especially the fact that we moved around all the time), but I still could have done more with what I had.