The Sunday Mail
Hunt for Greatness
LIFE is a marathon and not a mindless stroll or a goal-less sprint. You have to pace yourself for success, get up to run daily and think differently.
Many people do not succeed because they have a huge inventory of “tomorrows” to which they can always defer whatever they do not want to do today.
Threatening action is not taking action. A “To Do” list is not doing, it is just the beginning but not an end in itself. In the race of life, how you think determines your amplitude of success. A few months ago I had the opportunity to meet Haile Gebrselassie and he inspired me to think differently about time and life. Ordinary things you think you know seen from a different perspective look all new.
Haile Gebrselassie is the celebrated marathon runner from Ethiopia who shares Zimbabwe’s independence birthday. He was born on 18 April 1973, seven years before Zimbabwe celebrated its independence on this special day.
Haile has carved a career in long-distance track and road running and mentored many runners from his homeland. Born in a family of 10 children, he used to run 10 kilometres every day to and from school. This gave him a running gait, of one carrying a book bag, that now characterises him. Some things never leave you long after you have left them. Some habits shape you and some adversities are simply a runway or trampoline to your greatness.
Haile won two Olympic gold medals over 10 000 metres and four World Championship titles in the event. He also won the Berlin Marathon four times consecutively and had three straight wins at the Dubai Marathon.
He has also won four world titles indoors and was the 2001 World Half Marathon Champion.
Haile has continued to run in his latter career as a master and, unfortunately, a few injuries have sometimes sidelined him.
Regardless, he continues to run and has established a running village in his homeland to train aspiring runners.
You cannot easily retire from what you enjoy and what rewards you. No drug is as powerful as the adrenalin rush of athletic competition.
To run in anything and fail to inspire others to run as well is the same as not having run at all.
Haile had major competition wins at distances between 1 500 metres and the marathon, moving from outdoor, indoor and cross country running to road running in the latter part of his career. He broke 61 Ethiopian national records ranging from 800 metres to the marathon, set 27 world records, and is widely considered one of the greatest distance runners in history.
When you focus on what you do well, you leave markers that inspire others for many years. Live with that responsibility, you may just be blazing a trail today for many. Haile’s life shows that there are many good things that can come out of Africa and that your circumstances of birth need not limit you.
In February 2014, I had the opportunity to facilitate a workshop at Haile Resort in Hawassa on the shores of Lake Awassa, 270 kilometres from Addis Ababba. This is a resort that Haile Gebrselassie built and it is a world-class facility with taste and class in every way. As I walked the grounds of this majestic resort one thought throbbed through me: “Go far, do many great things, but never forget to develop and invest back home in Africa!”
On the final day of the retreat, Haile came in person to meet and speak to the eager group of 120 people. It was an electrifying moment. What made a lasting impression were two seminal things that he shared. I am still thinking about these two aspects and meditating on them.
Asked what his key to success was, he responded that running had taught him two aspects that he continues to apply in his business life and other interests.
Firstly, he said that he had learnt the importance and value of time. To him a second could mean the difference between going home with several million dollars or getting a paltry consolation price. As a result on and off the field, he has no time to waste.
No one understands the value of time better than an athlete. A few seconds shaved off could be a world record.
Haile knows, because he broke many records. If we all valued time like athletes at a meet, we would run many things differently. What is happening off the field should never distract you from pursuing your goal. Time matters if you have something worthwhile that you are pursuing. A runner without a watch, has very little else left to watch.
Running your life as though you will live forever is vanity.
The second thing that Haile Gebrselassie said was important for him was the discipline to complete whatever he starts. Whatever the race, he knows that he must run to finish. For other people, if they do not finish today, they always can consign the work to tomorrow. You cannot do that with an athletics race, you do not have the luxury of tomorrow, the race is on today.
Every day is match day. The opportunity of today is begging to be seized.
Unfortunately a lot of people around you may not take an athletic view to life and for them tomorrow is always there. What folly!
You too can think and run your life and affairs like Haile Gebrselassie. Value time. Invest in your area of concern and whatever you do, run to finish.
Do not just be satisfied with compiling “to do” lists that never get done. Do not waste time in egotistical battles that do not benefit posterity. Live with a full awareness that time is a borrowed and perishable commodity. Run with focus and determination. Go one step further and never be satisfied with doing only the bare minimum. Run well and life will reward you handsomely.
What have you been putting off? How are you using your time? If you knew you were dying, would you use your time differently?
Committed to your greatness.
Milton Kamwendo is a cutting-edge international motivational speaker, author, strategy and innovation consultant and leadership coach. His life purpose is to inspire people to release the greatness trapped in them. He can be reached at: [email protected]