I remember watching the 2012 Olympics in London and thinking about what it means to be world-class. Michael Phelps won the 19th medal of his Olympic career. It’s a staggering number. The U.S. women’s gymnastics team won their first gold medal since the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. In an interview with NBC’s Bob Costas, all five women, who ranged in age from 15 to 17, said they decided they would compete in the Olympics during the 2004 Games in Athens. Kyla Ross was only seven at the time.
They dedicated eight years of their lives to winning the gold. Yes, half their lifetime. One young lady, McKayla Maroney, had developed a special talent for the vault. Even among the world’s very best vaulters, she soared two feet higher than any other competitor. One night she was perfection and grace and beauty in motion – so much so that one judge’s mouth dropped wide open. The analysts were shocked when she did not receive a perfect score.
My Peachtree Road Race experience.
I never aspired to be a world-class athlete, but I thought I was a pretty fast runner. In fact, in my junior year of high school, I was the fastest cross country runner in a school with 2000+ students. In my first Peachtree Road Race I placed 193rd. If you are wondering how I did so well in the world’s largest 10 kilometer race, you should probably know there were only 1159 participants that year. Now there are 60,000.
The next year I ran my best time, 39:40. That’s a six-and-a-half minute mile. Six of ‘em in a row.
This was so long ago that the race finished in downtown Atlanta at Central City Park. I remember standing at the base of the Trust Company Bank building, hunched over, hands on knees, sucking air as fast as I could, and feeling elated about my excellent time. I looked up and saw Chase Van Valkenburg casually standing nearby with his hands on his hips. Chase was the fastest cross country runner in DeKalb County. By the way, can you be a runner and have a better name than “Chase Van Valkenburg?”
“Hey Chase, Dave O’Farrell, Southwest DeKalb. How’d you do?” I ask while gasping for air.
“Not so good. How’d you do?” He asks.
“Fantastic; 39:40!” I say.
“Oh, I ran 34:20.” He replies.
Ouch. Crashed and burned. In a six-mile race, Van Valkenburg beat me by a mile. But the fastest guy in DeKalb County finished a mile behind Don Kardong, whose winning time was 29:14. Now that’s world class.
Come to think of it, I lost that six-mile race by two miles. Can you say, “embarrassing?”
This year Gabriel Geay (Tampa) was the mens’ winner, and Edna Kiplagat (Kenya) won the women’s division with times of 28:49 and 32:24 respectively. Wow. The course record was established in Atlanta’s 1996 Olympic year, by Joseph Kimani of Kenya at 27:01. Amazing.
Your job search experience.
In job search, the number of competitors for a single job may be 1159 people. You don’t want to come in 193rd. This week one of our clients said he beat out 45 other candidates for a job. That’s pretty good. Even better when you consider this gentleman had a stroke about a year ago. Al beat the odds with his faith, his hard work, and his preparation. He didn’t have a pity party. He didn’t make excuses. He went all out and won the one job he needed to provide for his family. Congratulations Al!
Be like Al. Have faith. Work hard. Prepare yourself. Beat the odds. Win the job.
Gene Griessman interviewed some of the most successful people of the 20th century and recorded those conversations in his book, “The Achievement Factors.” He started his chapter on competence with Jack Nicklaus. Nicklaus said, “I don’t think talent is as important as the work and dedication necessary to become competent. A lot of guys out there are more talented than I am, and through the years we’ve passed them all by.”
Chase Van Valkenburg might have been more talented that I was, but I would have passed him by if he had not put in the hard work and dedication necessary to be the best in the county.
I still enjoy running. In fact, I ran three miles before sitting down to write this article. I have chosen not to dedicate myself to being the best runner in my age group. In fact, when I go running with my best friend from high school and cross country teammate, Ted Wansley, these days, we start off nice and slow – and then taper off from there.
My passion now is helping people win jobs. I’ve dedicated the past 22 years to perfecting my craft. Nicklaus told Griessman that, even after winning multiple major championships, he was still trying to perfect his game. I look at résumés I wrote seven years ago and say, “Who wrote this junk?” After all, I’d only been writing résumés for 14 years at the time.
Think about all the seven-year-old gymnasts who decided in 2004 they are going to compete in the Olympics one day. How did Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross and Jordyn Wieber win the gold when tens of thousands of other girls didn’t even make it to the games?
Do what they did: work at the craft of finding a job, perfect your skills, overcome your weaknesses and fears, play to your strengths – and then leave the results confidently to God.
See you Friday at JobSeekers, where we are becoming world-class job seekers every week!
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