Not Good Enough

Simon Smart on why we should stop saying "you can achieve anything you want if you just try hard”. 

I knew from about 7 years old that I would play Test Cricket for Australia.

As a little boy, from the moment I first laid eyes on the impossibly lush and smooth SCG outfield, I thought “that’s where I want to be”. And believe me, I did everything in my power to make it happen. If hours spent sweating it out in the nets, getting hit, honing my cover drives and cut shots counted for anything, I might have even broken through.

But the harsh truth I (eventually) learned was whatever miracle of hand-eye magic and preternatural cat-like reflexes are required to deal with 130km swinging thunderbolts was simply not within my capability.

Which is why I think it would be good to train Olympic athletes (and commencement speech givers) to refrain from saying “You can achieve anything you want if you just try hard”.

It isn’t true.

It wouldn’t matter how dedicated I was or how many hours I put in, the genetic lottery simply didn’t gift me with the fast twitch muscles required to threaten any reasonable sprinter or send me flying over a 2-metre high jump.

Of course, I know what they mean. You really can achieve a lot through commitment and hard work and dedication. The Olympians do have something to teach us. Not many things that are worthwhile and satisfying come easy.

Perhaps the key is making the most of whatever we’ve been given; understanding all of life as a gift, and adopting a posture of gratitude to the giver. That might be the recipe, not necessarily for a world record, but for deep and lasting joy.