I recently watched an interview of Michael Phelps, perhaps the greatest Olympic athlete in history, at an industry conference.
He made one particular comment that stuck out to me. He said he thought the potential for human achievement is almost limitless…..that humans can accomplish almost anything (he noted flying as an exception) if it gets enough concentrated effort.
That got me thinking about examples of extraordinary achievement…..rarified air if you will. I have had the great privilege of associations with some folks who have lived in that space.
Association #1 is a retired Navy Seal. As I understand it, Special Operations Command makes up about 3% of our Military. Special Operations troops make up about 10% of that Command organization. And I’ve heard estimates in the media that only about .4% of the total population is active military of any kind. I won’t try to do the math on that…but suffice to say that if you are a Navy Seal you are part of an almost immeasurably small and elite portion of the population.
Association #2 is an Ironman triathlon competitor. These competitions are comprised of roughly a two mile swim, 112 mile bike event, and a 26 mile run. According to runtri.com roughly 50,000 folks finish in these events annually (which includes repeat competitors). The first event was held in 1978 with just a handful of competitors. When you factor in the growth curve of the sport it is estimated that there have been about 700,000 event completions which includes repeat competitors. We live on a planet of over 7 billion people. This means that he is in a group that represents less than .01% of the population….and that’s BEFORE you account for repeat competitors. My associate has completed 10 of these events.
Association #3 has a son who golfs professionally. Before he went pro his son was an amateur golfer in the collegiate ranks. In his senior year of college he achieved the #1 amateur golf ranking in the world. He held the top ranking on the planet for amateur golfers. No ‘percent of the population’ calculation needed.
I get a sense from these associates that the key to these remarkable achievements is focus. That in each case it is something that they all wanted very badly….and that they were prepared to make sacrifices in other parts of their lives to achieve elite level success by focusing all or most of their attention, resources and efforts in a singular direction.
To be clear, I’m not arguing that we should all live in the rarified air of elite level accomplishment. I, for example, prefer a variety of interests. That preference would likely prevent the kind of focus that would result in elite level performance in any one area.
I’m arguing that it is a choice. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. How we choose to spend those hours makes a VERY big difference in outcomes over the course of a lifetime.
Hey…you’ve got 24 hours. The clock starts now. Time to choose.
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