“He (Sir Alex) said that the ‘lad’ as he called him, had an amazing way of working. After seeing it up close, I think it is impressive for a player with the status he has that no one works harder than him. Here I have a Cristiano and, by the way he works, it is easy to demand from others what I want in regard to the dedication to work.”- José Mourinho
We are all born equal. Some may be born rich, some poor, some with a genetic predisposition which makes them good at running or jumping, but there is one attribute with which we are all equally blessed. That one thing can make the difference between a champion and a role player. Every single one of us is born with an equal gift of this commodity, equal until it matters anyway. After this commodity runs out, you don’t really live to regret it. The most prized commodity with which we are blessed with is time. How you spend it determines how the rest of it plays out. This is something which education seeks to instil in us, but sports does a better job of it. In classes we are taught that studying and doing homework in time will be rewarding; save nine stitches, fetch better marks. But all that will happen in the distant future. In sports, the benefits are readily perceptible. You do 30 push-ups for a week, and next week you are able to go up to 35. That makes you think that the time you invested last week has paid dividends. What we fail to take into account is idle time.
“He is very hard-working, the first to arrive and the last to leave. “- Torres, on Rolando.
I remember running an obstacle course race in the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. It was a race between a couple of teams. Each team would take turns to run the course and the one with the best time would win. In my team, we spoke about what we can do to cut time. It wasn’t about how fast you can do a pull-up, or how fast you can scale the ten foot wall. Everyone would naturally give their full effort in those spots. We talked about how we need to go all out in between the obstacles. A small thing like that can make significant cuts in your time; sprint our hardest while running in between obstacles. The result? We won the gold. That helped emphasise that the part of the course which wasn’t seen as an obstacle at all, the gaps between obstacles, can make all the difference in the world.
Even when you are just sitting and watching TV or tapping away at your laptop, you can be stretching to take your game to the next level if you’re a serious athlete. Kadour Ziani would stretch for four hours everyday. Now look at what he does:
That is all about stretching his body like a rubber band. Not much muscle on him, but he’s as lithe as a cat thanks to the hard work he does and how he spends his time. A quote from Ziani led me to pen this in the first place. “The definition of talent is someone who uses the time, the natural clock. Everyday, I stretch about 4 hours. People go to the gym and do the hard stuff, lifting weights, but they don’t bother to do the easy stuff, like stretching, and then they go home and destroy all their hard work with the bad food they eat. It is a dedication of a lifetime. Dunking is a way of life.”- Kadour Ziani.
Talent is all about how you spend your time. The pennies of quantity add up to dollars of quality. Every day, there are ten things you could be doing to get better. Everyday there are things you can be doing to get more time out of the day. A teacher of mine used to say that every single day is a race against time.
We all love to run and time ourselves between those 100-400 meters. But do we time our entire day? There is so much idle time being wasted every single day. I’m not advocating being on the lam every single second. My point is to just appreciate the fact that there’re twenty-four hours in every single day given to everyone; the way they spend it today determines what they are able to do tomorrow.
“A lot of late nights in the gym, a lot of early mornings, especially when your friends are going out, you’re going to the gym, those are the sacrifices that you have to make if you want to be an NBA basketball player.”- Jason Kidd.
Rodney Mullen is the godfather of skateboarding. Without him, there would be no ollie. An ollie is a technique for popping your board in the air off flat ground. If he hadn’t figured that trick out, street skating wouldn’t exist. There’s only so much you can do on a skateboard without jumping. The inspiration didn’t come to him while he was relaxing in his hammock.
Every day, he would time his skate sessions. Pushing the buttons on his Casio digital watch, setting the timer to allow himself 20 minutes of warm-up skating before starting the hardcore practicing. He would even cut time for a water break. That’s how disciplined he is and he’s come up with pretty much every foundation trick of street skating.
“He tells us he wants to be the best player in the world, that he’s desperate to be the greatest. I know one thing: this change in Ronaldo hasn’t come about by luck. He works bloody hard. Some players go home straight after training, but he’s usually out there with a bag of balls long after clocking-off time, working on different drills.”- Wayne Rooney.
Cristiano Ronaldo is seen as a natural talent. Think about all those prodigy athletes who fizzle out and never reach their potential. There are a lot more athletes born with ‘natural ability’ who fizzle out than those who aren’t born with superpowers and make it on the back of their work ethic. He is where he is because everyday he continues to push himself forward. Allen Iverson once said “I’d rather have someone with all heart and no talent on my team than someone with all the talent in the world but no heart. If you got no heart, sooner or later you’re gonna come up short.”
What he was referring to was grit and the desire to make it to the top. Whenever someone tries to limit you by saying that you haven’t been born with the X-factor to make it to the top, remind yourself that there are only 24 hours in a day available to the uber athletes and to you. The most important ingredient of a champion is time. We are all born equal in that regard. What we make of it is up to us.