Recently I was asked in an interview what I thought my greatest strength was/is? Immediately I said, “my mental game has been crucial to my progress.”
In any endeavor, people will have opinions good or bad. It’s whether you give those opinions power or not that will determine your success. 10 times out of 10 you will suffer if you take to heart other people’s opinions and have an emotional reaction to them. A great strength of mine is to be able to observe, use logic, and be rational. If you let other’s opinions control you, you give them the power. I will never let that happen, and hope you won’t either.
17 years ago, I strapped on my Speedo Hydrospexs and slowly lowered myself into the water. My toes barely touched the 4 ft bottom but it was my first swim lesson and I was ready to go.
Secretly sliding off my arm floaties, fearless and flirting with danger, my mom knew it was time to learn proper swim safety and technique.
As the lessons went by I loved the feel of the water, the challenge each lap brought, and how I could dolphin kick like Ariel in the Little Mermaid (only to be cut short by getting heel kicked square in the nose to which I needed some medical attention to stop the bleeding).
I made major improvements over the few weeks of the lessons and had gone from a fearless novice, to a focused swimmer who managed to learn the basics of all 4 strokes. As the lessons were winding down, my hunger to keep swimming was just revving up. After diligently watching the older kids and hearing about the summer league team, I craved the opportunity.
However, when my mum asked the instructor about it after the lessons were done, the instructor responded: “In my opinion, I don’t think she’s good enough yet.”
My mum, being the saint that she is, didn’t want me to be discouraged, but also wasn’t going to sugarcoat it. In the car when I asked her what the instructor said she replied, “In her opinion, she thinks you need more practice, honey”
I didn’t give it too much thought, and I remember thinking to myself very plainly, “I’m going to work on my own to be able to swim on a team. I’m not doing any more lessons.”
If they close a door, crawl through the window…
After countless trips to the library checking out books on swimming mechanics… to hours and laps at Auntie A’s backyard pool with my dad serving as “coach,” we covered everything from putting on a bathing cap to technique. My dedication to making the team was unwavering and my skills improved. When my dad saw an ad in the Sunday Eagle Tribune about the top ranked New England U.S.A. club team (then called the Pirates) holding tryouts, I was there on a late August evening with my parents and older brother supporting on deck.
Long story short, my dedication was rewarded and I made the team. I had incredible coaches who truly believed in their swimmers (I’m looking at you Brenda Hogan and Patty Spring). I won state medals at 8-and-unders, broke a team relay record and even won the Coaches Award at the All-Team Banquet in the first year. I stayed with the Pirates (now Crimson Aquatics) under the guidance of even more renown coaches (Mike Spring, Sean Geary, Mark Taffe) for the following 12 years. (Blog post on that coming soon.)
Moral of the story, all that matters is how you see yourself and how you work towards the goals you set and proclaim. Opinions are opinions, and while they can be valuable, they can also be unnecessary noise.
As the Ancient Greek aphorism states at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, “know thyself.”