Over the years I have asked myself "What makes an athlete successful?" As an athlete and Team Canada competitor I looked at Olympians from all sports and tried to create a pattern of characteristics or behaviors that I could attribute to their success. But I found I had a huge problem determining a pattern.
When you see an athlete on TV, at least within the acrobatic world, they are very “put together” and presented in a certain way, governed by the rules of the sport, with very little deviance. So how are you to see their 'true character' if they are hidden from the public in broad daylight, you might ask. Well you are not suppose to. At least that is the position of the traditionalists within the industry.
If you think I'm lying then simply ask yourself if every thought you had should be expressed to the rest of the world. Of course not. The federation knows that so it works extremely hard to cover up the real characteristics of the athletes it supports.
Again you may think I am lying so let’s use poor Gabby Douglas as an example. She got recent scrutiny over the fact she did not hold her hand over her heart during the American Anthem. She did seem sluggish but that could be for a million reasons that the public will never understand. The federation knows that the public will over analyze things they do not understand so they try their best to protect their athletes from exposing themselves too much. I think they over do it a bit but who am I to judge. (The truth is I can easily go into this subject a lot more but chose to stay on topic…for now)
So how are we suppose to know what makes an athlete successful if the image they present to the world is forced to be phony? Well you simply look at successful business owners or those who you know the names of. Malcolm X, Karl Marx and Obama even. I was always taught that I would only be successful by following the rules and doing what others told me to do.
THIS IS A LIE!!!!!
This is precisely the opposite of what the successful people do. If you look at Karl Marx and read into his theories he, amongst others recognize that those who are successful are generally those who create ripples in an industry and therefore a revolution. Those who create a revolution by definition have to disagree with the rules placed on them. In the Communist Manifesto Marx and Engles discuss in detail about how the proletariats (working class) naturally over throw the Bourgeoisie (Elite Class) by a series of inevitable events. I will not go into that doctrine at this point but worth a read for sure.
Basically Marxism refers to the fact that without conflict evolution cannot exist. The term for this is called “Dialectics”. So even in 1848 philosophers and economists knew that without fighting the rules you would not create change and without creating change you will not be successful.
What is success?
You can create a million definitions but reality is that if you do not alter the course of human existence in some improved way you are not successful. That is my opinion and only my opinion. It is also the opinion of many high level business owners much more successful then myself that I have spoke to.
So what makes someone want to “be different”?
I recently got into an argument with a few business associates of mine in Bali. I expressed that:
“Well, those who are really successful usually have some kind of fear or demon they are running from. Something drives them and it’s usually a fundamental pain they live with. Some one who has no pain has no need to be successful because there is no fundamental driving force, like emotional or physical pain”.
They looked at me like I was retarded. I was taken aback. I couldn’t understand why they didn't understand what I was discussing. They said.
“Greg, the greats of every sport are fueled by the "love of the sport". You are saying you do not love the sport.”
“I do love the sport, but the reason why I love the sport comes from pain deep down. I have a need to be successful (I wont go into why in this article) and I use acrobatics as my vessel for it”.
They didn’t seem to understand that position. But I am not the only one who thinks this. Back to Marx. He mentions that there are three classes. Bourgeoisie, Middle Class (conservatives) and the lower class. He agrees that the only class that really creates revolution, Ie. is successful and leaves an imprint on the earth is the lower class.
The Bourgeoisie are too busy already in control. The middle class is busy protecting what they have and the lower class individuals are those who have nothing to lose so they go all out. They tend to not care about what people think of them and possible reprocussions. They just do what they think is right and it either kills them or makes them successful. They feel that living the way they do, is so terrible that its worth risking it all to change it. They would literally rather die then stay where they are. Those people are only fueled by some kind of demon. (For those of you who think this is garbage, please message me and I can give many examples)
It is simple. Success is not doing what others think is right, it is doing what YOU think is right despite what they think is right. I have gotten a lot of scrutiny from many peers but once you read some old literature you realize the error of their ways and it makes me laugh. I didn’t know what I was doing at the time but now I do and it reconfirms my arguments.
Let me give you another example. This is from a Film Director in the early 1900’s who directed a film called “Wings” in 1927 if I remember correctly. He was an ex-fighter pilot, turned director and thus the movie was about fighter pilots during a war.
He recalls a story about his first movie. It went something like this:
“I was frustrated because we were in France and could not get decent weather to shoot the aerial scene. The investors from New York had come and were upset and asking why the film was so delayed. I couldn’t control the weather obviously but I knew that we were about to get 5 minutes of sun so I told everyone to gear up and get ready. We would only get one shot at this and it was going to be short. So I sat in my directors chair and had a lot of buttons that allowed explosions to go off to pretend like it was real war. I accidentally pressed one of the buttons at the wrong time and it sent men flying. These were not the dummies. A man came up to me from behind and said “What the hell are you doing man, you are causing injuries!!!!” I said, shut up, go away I do not care! Get off my set NOW!!!!!!. The scene finished and it was beautiful, better then I could ever imagine, but one of my friends came up to me and said: “You know who that was right?”. It was Otto Kahn, one of my principal investors that I had just yelled at off my set. I was so worried and drank myself into a stupor that night. I figured I was going to be fired. But hey, if they fired me then they would not get the picture they wanted so they can’t fire me. Oh My God, I yelled at him though, he is going to kill me. I kept going back and forth that night in my own mind and could not sleep. I heard a knock on the door and it was my three investors from New York, one being Otto Kahn. I offered him a drink and admitted I was a bit loaded on alcohol. Otto said: understandable, I just wanted to say that we have to go back to New York tonight but anything you want forever in the future we will give to you. You are amazing.” With that they left and I wept like a baby on the floor as soon as they left.”
At the surface this seems like a weird story. But I beg you to look deep into it. The concept of having to have perfect manners, language and be completely sober all the time and even never make mistakes as a precursor to success that is instilled into our heads from a young age is not actually how success is created. It is with stories like that truly make success. That moment of anger showed Otto Kahn that this director meant business and was not going to back down for anyone and by showing those who you really are, is how you become successful. That is, if the person YOU really are, wants to be successful.
Let’s use another example from the birth of the film industry. King Vidor was a well known film maker and he mentions a story of how the head of MGM forbid him to make an ending scene in a movie in the early 1900’s that depicted their star actor coming back from WWI with a decapitated leg. MGM thought this would upset the viewers but Vidor knew that it was necessary to capture his vision of the film so he paid all the actors out of his own pocket to shoot that scene against MGM’s permission.
The film was a huge success and was the largest grossing film for MGM in that time period. King Vidor is still friends with Louis V Meyers who was running MGM at that time.
There are hundreds and thousands of stories like this that are at the heart of every successful person in the world.
I will give you a small example of my own. I have many but I am not able to divulge that info quite yet.
I did a video with Devin Graham (Devin SuperTramp) in Italy a few years ago and he asked if I had cliff dived. (Devin is a famous videographer, internationally recognized) Not wanting to miss an opportunity I lied to his face and said I cliff dive all the time and that I was a shoe-in for this next film so he flew me over to Italy.
I had never even jumped off a 10 meter platform before. That is not a joke. I knew I had a shot to impress him even more and I knew that it would lead to bigger and better things so I knew I had to lie to get that shot.
Half way through the trip we were all sitting with the managers at Contiki Travel Tours and Devin’s Team and I told him outright, in front of everyone that I had never cliff dived before. He put his prawns down (He loves shrimp) and looked at me really seriously and said “ Are you lying?, you have never cliff dived before?”. With a playful smile I admitted it and asked him seriously. “Well If I had told you the truth, would you have brought me here?” He said “No, we would have used someone else”. I shrugged and told him he wouldn't be disappointed. He wasn’t and we continue to do business today with a recent film with Skyzone that we coordinated together.
I hope you see the picture I am starting to paint that by looking at these kind of stories you start to see real success is a lot more messy then the classical authority figures will have you believe. The Michael Jordans, Mike Tysons, Tiger Woods and all other athletes you speak about all have similar stories. They became great, despite the authority figures. Not to say all authority is bad, but do not look at it "Black And White". Create your own beliefs from countless hours of research and experience and then stick to it, no matter who tells you other wise if you feel it will serve the greater good.
In short, I do not know the exact recipe for success but if you think that it is simply by doing what you are told you are missing a huge part of it. Not to say you have to spit in the faces of those who try to direct you with authority but it is not the only thing. All successful people bend the rules or create new ones from time to time.
I’ll end off with a paraphrase from Apple Inc. marketing coordinator Guy Kawasaki:
“If you want to be remembered and really revolutionize a product, do not waste your time beating everyone on their “curve”, create your own “curve” and once they start playing your game then you have already won”.