A reporter once asked Muhammad Ali how many sit ups he could do. The great boxer said he didn’t know. He only started counting when it started hurting.
This is the story I like to think about when I think about reaching greatness. Muhammad Ali is generally considered one of the greatest boxers of all time. Just by looking at this quote I can see why.
What made Muhammad Ali great is this ability to push past his limits so he could grow and become better. That’s what it takes to reach greatness. It means ignoring what you think is impossible to be the best.
So what qualities do you need to bring out your own greatness?
1. Intense dedication/obsessiveness
Those who are great at something become extremely dedicated to it.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was so focused and determined to be a great bodybuilder that he used to break into a local gym when it was closed so he could train.
When he served in the Austrian army, which was compulsory for all 18-year-olds, he was put into military prison for about a week because he sneaked out to participate in the Junior Mr. Europe bodybuilding contest in Germany.
Arnold never stopped thinking about how to improve his performance as a bodybuilder. With this determination, he would go on to win the top bodybuilder accolade, Mr. Olympia seven times.
It’s hard to see how he would have won without that intense dedication.
If you want to reach greatness, you have to think about it all the time. Think of different ways to improve yourself or different ways to reach your goals.
Start obsessing about it. Don’t focus on anything else. As Michael Jordan once said, “In order to excel, you must be completely dedicated to your chosen sport.”
Reaching greatness isn’t easy. It takes a lot of dedication to get there. No matter what skill or ability you want to be become great in, you need perseverance and determination to see it all the way to the end.
2. Practice as much as you can
They say it takes 10,000 hours to be proficient in an activity. The only way to reach that number is to put in the time and effort. That means a lot of practice.
Even the best artists and athletes practice constantly. For example, Michael Phelps trained six hours a day six days a week and consumed 12,000 calories every day.
No one gets a free pass on practice. It takes hours and hours to hone your skills.
There are a lot of people who think greatness comes from natural talent, but that’s not true.
Take Mozart for example. He was a musical genius who occasionally played for kings when was just a little boy.
You might think he was just born gifted.
Look closer and you’ll see all the practice that went into his musical ability. A lot of classical music fans consider one of his earliest and greatest works to be the Piano Concerto no. 9 which he composed when he was 21.
That’s such a young age to reach greatness. But by the time he composed that Concerto, he had been practicing and training for 18 years.
3. Work smarter AND harder
Arnold Schwarzenegger once gave a speech about his rules for success. One of those rules was to work your butt off. He said that while most people are goofing off, there are people who are working harder, getting better and becoming smarter.
He’s right. If you’re not working your butt off to become great, you’re losing ground to someone who is.
This isn’t the same as practicing; it’s about the intensity of your practice. Working hard means pushing your skills to new levels and abilities. It’s not about practicing the same things over and over again.
Working smarter is equally important to working harder. If you can find a quicker way to reach your goals and objectives, you’ll get a lot further in a shorter amount of time.
By working smarter, you’re making your hard work pay off more. Think of them working in conjunction with each other. Working smarter is like a catalyst giving you quicker results.
4. Measure everything
You need to measure your progress for two reasons:
• It tells you how well you’re doing
• It tells you what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong
There’s a good reason sport teams measure so many statistics of their players. How else would they know what needs work?
In my personal experience, I can attest to why you need to measure your progress. I’m a weightlifter so gaining muscle is important.
For the longest time, I never measured how much I ate or how often I lifted weights at the gym.
That was a mistake.
I didn’t gain much progress.
Now I measure what I eat and how often I go the gym. That little difference has given me big results. Now I know what I’m doing wrong and what’s working. It makes it so much easier to correct mistakes and get to the next level.
5. Mental preparation/strength
I think we can all agree that reaching greatness is difficult. And it’s not just the hard work, countless hours of practice, time and dedication you need to get there.
There are many things that will try and throw you off mentally.
• Loss of willpower
Any one of these things can prevent you from pushing past your limits to that next level of performance. This is why mental preparation and strength is so important.
These mental blocks are going to pop into your head and tell you that you can’t go any further. And if you listen to them, you won’t get very far.
If you want to be great at something, you have to be cognizant about mental strength. When something comes around to throw you off mentally, you have to stop and deal with it. Otherwise, you can’t push yourself to the next level.
photo credit: Thomas Hawk
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