TOW#546 — From a sporting perspective

If someone were to ask me what the formula for success is, I wouldn’t know how to answer because there is no formula — there’s just a path along which you develop and define yourself in terms of what you’re aiming for and what you’ve set your mind on.

I’ve been involved with sports since as far back as I can remember, and was successful in several: skiing, gymnastics, a little bit of football, surfing, but in the end I guess my genes prevailed — KAYAK!!! I was never pressured into it, even though my father was the one who made kayaking become such a part of my life, and it was with the kayak that I self-actualised both as a person and as an athlete.

I’m eternally grateful to him for that.

I’d like to briefly share with you a few things I’ve faced during my sports career, as well as my perspective and experience. I’m an athlete from a ‘vacuum generation’ that went from one system to another, and in the end even to a third. At the age of 12, I felt what individual power means, what it means to be rejected because you’re persistent and full of energy and a desire to work, perhaps because I knew what I wanted. That’s when I felt the pain of a young athlete who’s determined to be better every day, who wants to achieve something precisely because it’s challenging and because, in fact, that’s what sport’s all about — to be better today than yesterday.

Analysing myself now, from this perspective, I see that back then I unconsciously allowed others to be better than me, but not to want success more than me. Hard work and dedication is what builds the character of a winner, because they are the ones who never give up; despite all the setbacks and defeats, they work on achieving their aim. The road to get there is not easy. It’s tough and interweaved with an endless array of uncertainties for a young man for whom life’s biggest challenges were still to come!

One of the things that separates professional athletes from the rest of society is that they regularly forgo their private time and make various sacrifices. It’s similar in the work or business sector, with the struggle to be better than the competition, so it’s interesting to compare athletes with the business sector. Getting up at 5am, rowing and training in sub-zero temperatures, breaking oars and boats, overtraining, recovery, disappointment, celebration, joy, are just some of the emotions that have formed part of my existence, and the ultimate goal of what you’re doing is BETTER RESULTS than yesterday! The same is true in business or the workplace. You have to train your work skills and habits and never stop or give up — insist on getting better, look for new victories!

Regular training turns into a routine that contributes to quicker adaptability to changes, a disciplined approach, flexible reactions, as well as resourcefulness in certain situations. That’s how you develop accuracy and precision, which are among the determinants of whether you’ll become elite or remain average. Also at work, if you have a disciplined, dedicated and ambitious approach, there’s a very good chance that you won’t be average.

I’d like to single out perseverance in sports, because without it everything would be a question of luck, and in professional sports nothing is left to chance. Again, if we were to copy paste it into the work environment, it would come down to the same thing: you won’t achieve anything more than the average if you’re not persistent and if you’re prone to giving up easily.

Sacrificing private time is an integral part of professional sports, because we athletes sacrifice our free time and all other distractions in order to dedicate ourselves completely to what we do. We train to be among the best in our sport and to achieve the best possible results. It’s the same thing at work, sometimes you need to do more and work longer hours so you can finish a certain task!

In sports, the amount of training, and its proper distribution in relation to rest, is of utmost importance! A tired body doesn’t function as well and is prone to injury, while fatigue leads to weakened immunity and thus poor results. Same goes for work, don’t force yourself too much and lose concentration — you’ll start making bad and unproductive decisions that will affect your end result.

I loved running as a training activity, because I was somehow able to concentrate on what my goal was for the upcoming season, or race, or some life decision… Similarly, visualisation is an inevitable part of professional athletes, and my experience of using the technique has been positive. Sports psychologists affirm that it contributes to great results and as such you can try applying it in your everyday life and at work!

I did all of the above with constant dedication and discipline, so that those 3 minutes of competition would be perfect for 5 minutes. On your marks — Tacen, Slovenia, in front of packed stands at the Qualifiers for the 2010 World Championships. The whole race went PERFECTLY, as if I’d been waiting for that moment to achieve everything I’d imagined over the previous four years spent preparing. Best time in qualifying, a fantastically driven qualifying race! All the indicators showed that my time was the best! I was expected to be among the top three at that World Championship, but I finished seventh in the final.

A huge and especially dear personal and national success, 7th in the world… So close to first place, just a matter of a few hundredths of a second. Well, beauty is in the hundredths. I believe that greatness, brilliance and the top level come down to those few hundredths that separate the very top from the average! That day I overcame myself, and then I realised the greatness that comes with defeating oneself rather than defeating thousands of opponents!

That’s why I wish we can all appreciate the small things and small successes that lead to great achievements. When I was little, the first time I got into a canoe was probably a small thing, but I was later able to amass plenty of success thanks to that first little step.

Wishing you success with the changes to come,

Atanas Nikolovski — Olympic athlete

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