On Superbowl Rings, Overnight Success and What it Takes to be a Champ
I was rushing to board a flight from Denver to Palm Springs -- en route to my first half Ironman. Hungry but with a quick layover, I decided to take my chances and try to grab a meal before boarding. I hustled onto an already boarded plane with an oversized burrito bowl from Que Bueno! Mexican Grille -- my level of hunger barely overriding my smelly food self-consciousness.
I sit down and immediately my seatmate remarks, “Dear God, is that supposed to hold you over for the next two weeks?”. “At least for the next two hours,” I reply. With the burrito bowl inhaled, I reach for my nearly finished book: The Champion’s Mindset. As I crack it open, I glance to my right and notice my seatmate’s World Championship ring.
The flight comes to an end and conversation commences. I noticed his ring; he noticed my book. I point to the ring and ask “what does it take to be a champ?”. He smiles and seems glad I’ve asked. Then he imparts the following wisdom:
You have your goal. It’s with you when you wake up. It’s with you during the day. It’s with you when you go to sleep. You work hard for your goal and then one day, you wake up and you’ve achieved your goal. You did it.
I nod. It takes years to become an overnight success, I think to myself.
I tell him I’m attempting my first half Ironman. We chat a bit about the details. He forgets his iPad in the seatback pocket in front of him as he deplanes, so I chase him down and we continue talking as we walk to baggage claim. As he leaves the baggage claim area, he stops in front of me. I’m holding my bike box and surveying the other triathletes milling around. I’m already getting nervous. He points at me and says “It’s on you now. You got it?”. Truthfully, I have exactly zero idea how this triathlon is going to go, but something about the responsibility of the outcome being placed squarely on me feels good. I relish in the opportunity to say “Yes, I’ve got it.”
The race happens, I cross the finish line and meet my goal. A few weeks pass. I remember my seatmate with the world championship ring and tell my brother about it. I don’t follow NFL football, so while I was grateful for the pep talk, I had no idea who it was passing along game day wisdom. I remember that he had a Jersey accent and was on the 1976 Raiders Super Bowl team. We quickly figure out that it was Phil Villapiano, linebacker and many time Pro Bowler who made the game changing play in Super Bowl XI.
Thinking back, Phil must’ve asked me at least three times if I had my goal. In truth, I had my goal in mind, but I hadn’t yet written it down -- I hadn’t fully committed. The main goal was to cross the finish line that’s , but I was hiding from the I wouldn’t scribble my goal down until the night before the race. I may never have written anything down if it hadn’t been for that fateful seat assignment, his finger point, and him asking the question: “You got it?”.
Race day came and went, but the question continues to apply -- perhaps even more so to the really big goal that’s years away. One day you wake up and you’ve achieved your goal. With that in mind, what might you write down?