Sacrifice, Hardwork & Perseverance

In my previous post on the Recruits blog, I emphasized the importance of idle time and the value in marginal improvement. The point I was driving home was that all it takes is a little lifestyle change and a small window of time to break up life’s monotony and begin chasing your passion. This is a good start but in the past year I’ve come to recognize that the real key to accomplishment can be boiled down to a few factors: hard work, sacrifice, and perseverance applied consistently over time.

Many people are familiar with Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule. In his book Outliers, Gladwell asserts that to the key to achieving world class expertise in any skill is a matter of practicing the correct way for a total of about 10,000 hours. Gladwell cites many examples of how successful individuals such as Bill Gates accomplished so much through the application of 10,000 hours toward a certain craft.

Basically the underlying principle of this rule is that it takes a really long fucking time to become exceptionally skilled at something. That’s why not everyone is the CEO of Apple or Microsoft even though they know how to use a computer. That’s why only an incredibly small percentage of the population are professional athletes even though millions of people play sports on a regular basis.

Being successful at something is not easy. First and foremost, it takes a tremendous amount of sacrifice. You have to be willing to give up a lot of short-term enjoyment in order to pursue a dream. There is a theory in economics known as opportunity cost that looks at “the cost of an alternative that must be forgone in order to pursue a certain action.” In other words, opportunity cost asks ‘what are you willing to cut out of your life in order to go all in on your dream?’ Bill Gates spent an ridiculous amount of time programming at a young age that could have been spent partying or hanging out with friends. Sacrifice is an absolute necessity if someone stands any chance of becoming great at something.

Arguably more important than sacrifice is hard work and perseverance. Oftentimes you’ll see the media deem someone an “overnight success” or they’ll talk about an individual’s “big break.” But these phrases are cop outs. Most of the time we don’t see the blood, sweat, and tears that an individual pours into their craft day in and day out just to put him or her self in a position where he or she could metaphorically “blow up.”

The first time I was actually able to step back and appreciate this was back in February of 2012 when Linsanity was all anyone was talking about, regardless of whether or not they watched sports. As an avid basketball fan, I was actually familiar with Jeremy Lin from his tenure on the Dallas Mavericks Summer League team prior to the regular season. I had watched Lin, undrafted coming out of Harvard, work his ass off in an attempt to prove he deserved a spot on an NBA roster. In one of the games I watched, Lin went toe-to-toe with the first overall pick, John Wall. Any fan of basketball would wager that the first pick in the draft coming out of Kentucky would dominate an undrafted player from Harvard. Yet, somehow Lin held his own. After earning an NBA roster spot from Summer League, though, Lin was left to rot away on Golden State’s bench before Steph Curry became the Steph Curry we know today.

Lin ended up getting cut by several teams that season and occasionally playing in the Development League. That was up until February when Mike D’Antoni, coach of the NY Knicks at the time, gave Jeremy Lin an opportunity. All of the years Lin spent slaving on the basketball court from his humble beginnings in Palo Alto to his scholarly years in Cambridge to his summer fling in Las Vegas was all in preparation of one day being able to take advantage of an opportunity. This opportunity is where many people will make the argument that Lin “got lucky.” But there is no such thing as luck. There is opportunity and there is hard work and there is perseverance.

Jeremy Lin could have quit basketball at each fork in the road he faced. After all, he was a Harvard graduate with an NBA stint who could easily score a well-paying job. But perseverance kept him pursuing his lifelong dream of being an NBA player and now virtually anyone you ask could tell you that Jeremy Lin is, in fact, a basketball player in the NBA.

It’s through hard work and perseverance that you make a name for yourself. If you work your ass off each and every day and put yourself in a position to succeed, then you will create your own opportunities. Jeremy Lin is a living example of this. In 77 games this year, he is average 26 minutes a game. He was ready to seize his opportunity and today he continues to work endlessly and not get lazy or complacent.

Opportunity will come knocking. The question is: will you be ready?

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