24 Hours To Choose

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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5 Replies to “24 Hours To Choose”

  1. If I had 24 hours to do anything I want to do, it would be very different now than when I was in my 40’s, now I would choose a very expensive all day spa and spend the day in luxury and relaxation and have someone wait on me. I never have been much for sports or things that involve the outdoors. -:)

  2. Truly inspirational, as always, Ken. I honor your Navy Seal associate for his service, courage & fortitude. I honor your associate #3 for his son’s achievements in the very elite world of golf. I think I know your #2 Ironman associate. A man of tremendous endurance, patience & focus, indeed. These are truly the most elite of the elite in the universe in terms of focus, sacrifice, commitment & determination to attain their goals. They endure pain, risk & life-threatening challenges that we ordinary folks can’t comprehend. I salute them all for their bravery.

    Many folks have their stories. There are unsung heroes everywhere. Not necessarily Olympic gold-medal winners, Navy Seals, Ironmen, Golf champs or the like, but everyday people who fight the daily fight to stay alive or keep others alive. Those whose achievements are equally as remarkable but go unnoticed. Y’know who I refer to: nurses who care for patients, the elderly, the dying – for 24-hour shifts, etc…

    My career has been dedicated to achievement. Achievement for my employers. 20 years focused soley on achievement. I was a healthy, married young woman when I started. I’m now divorced (widowed) & on 7 medications/day for high blood pressure, IBS, anxiety, depression & insomnia. But, I was focused & I achieved.

    What’s the price we pay for this “achievement” obsession? Is it really worth it?

    1. Is it worth it? Not worth it? I offer no judgment on this question. All I would say is that before there is achievement of any kind at any level….there is a choice.

      I will quote the Declaration of Independence.

      “..life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…”

      That third one is where decisions have to be made individually about how to spend your hours.

    2. Yes! Balance is another one of those choices we make in our 24 hours. I also learned this the hard way and am learning to make better choices. Our test is often our testimony. Thanks for sharing Paula. A reminder to keep our priorities straight as we go about trying to make a positive difference in this world.

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