Focus or Failure ?


Focus by Michael Dales

Till about a couple of weeks ago the name Heather Dorniden meant nothing to me. The University of Minnesota was not in my wildest thoughts, Big Ten indoor track championships was unheard of and the year 2008 held no special significance, except of course for the great fall that we witnessed in the financial markets that year.

However there was another great fall and rise for that matter in that year. I only found it out two Tuesdays back when one of my managers played this wonderful video clip in one of our meetings that I am sharing with you here.

Meet Heather Dorniden a champion athlete from University of Minnesota running the final heat of 600m race at the Big Ten Indoor Track championship. Running in the third lane from outside her start is strong, just as expected from the last year’s champion athlete. She easily displaces the two runners in front of her and with 400 meters gone she is in the first place. Another 200 meters to go and she is certainly going to finish first but then it happens, the great fall. She trips and falls flat on her face. One runner jumps right over her fallen body and two others pass her from the side.

Game over, you would think. With only 200 meters to go there is no way possible for her to get back in race but that’s where you are wrong. She gets up and runs again and runs with the same purpose with which she ran before. With her long muscled legs pounding hard on that running track and with all her determination she goes past one. As the crowd starts cheering and wondering what could happen she passes another one. With the cheers of the crowd reaching a crescendo as he stop watch reaches the time of 1 minute 31 seconds she is the first one to cross the finish line. She wins the race after falling down, after coming from behind when no one realistically expected her and the million dollar question here is, how?

Well, you could attribute this victory to her determination, her never say die attitude, her belief or her crowd support and each one of those would be as true as the other one. For me though one thing that stands out in the whole episode was her focus.

Quite honestly, I don’t think she won the race at 1min: 31sec. She actually won the race in the two seconds between times 0min: 59sec and 1min: 01sec. That was the time between her tripping and falling to getting up and start running again. That was the time which decided more than anything else as to where she will end up on the podium. Had her focus wavered for those two seconds and the thought of anything but victory entered her mind, the result I am sure would have been different.

Many a times we start an endeavor with the best of our preparation, setting our goals and working hard and diligently to achieve them. We are moving ahead, winning our battles, rejoicing our successes and building our confidence even further. But then life happens, situations change, challenges come, obstacles creep up and this is where begin to lose, and we lose by losing not our skills or any other attributes for that matter. We lose by losing our focus, perhaps the one single thing that is the driving force behind everything else that is needed to be a winner.

We lose when we start concentrating on what if’s rather than why not’s. We lose when we start listening to others and make their doubts our doubts and stop listening to our own selves. And we lose when we start looking for excuses rather than looking for solutions.

For winners the thought process stays positive during all the times. They maintain their focus in face of triumph or challenge as magnificently evidenced by Heather in this clip.

Let me sign off with one of the most powerful quotes by Henry Ford, which compliments this video perfectly, “The man who thinks he can and the man who thinks he can’t are both right. Which one are you?”

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