How to Achieve Ambitious Goals:
10 Golden Lessons from a 70s & 80s Athletic Sprinter
When thinking about sprinters in athletics mind probably goes straight to giants like Usain Bolt (1m95), Justin Gatlin (1m85), Asafa Powell (1m90), Carl Lewis (1h88), etc. Giants on both morphological and sport point of view. The inspiring sprinter I have in mind belongs to a previous time – specifically 70s and 8às – and his name is probably only little known by younger generations: Pietro Mennea.
A slim and not very tall athlete (1m77) coming from the south periphery of Italy (Barletta). At a first glance, but only first glance, it seemed that mother nature was not very generous with him… Actually nothing proved being more wrong than that.
To remain only with his most famous feats:
1979, Mexico City - World University Games, 200m Men final: world-record with 19’72”. Mennea won the race with an incredible timing which remained unbeaten until 1996, hence 17 years;
1980, Moscow – Olympic Games, again 200m Men final: after a legendary comeback he won the gold medal.
What makes these performances special? Probably not the performances themselves, but the way these were achieved. In other words the underlying and background work? Let’s make one step back. Mennea was not tall, neither had a powerful muscular structure or long legs… Thus, physically speaking he did not seem what one could think of as a prototype of a sprinter. So, how did it make ? What’s the magic recipe? Easier said than done.
First of all an extraordinary hard work, a tenacious training sometimes brought to its limits. He believed that only through regular sacrifices results would have come. In a nutshell he profoundly believed in what he was doing and devoted himself to reach his goals.
Secondly, he had an indestructible willpower and determination, even against all odds. The above mentioned 200m final in Moscow is an exemplary proof of it: he never stopped believing he could make it. In a nutshell, even when most of the people around – me included – thought that he was “cooked”, he surprisingly proved the contrary. Never give up.
Driven by a spirit of abnegation, he invested all of himself to reach his goal and succeeded. Daily efforts and sacrifices were, for him, worth of being made. Passion was his (not so) secret ingredient. In a nutshell, without a true passion and steady dedication he probably would not have made it.
Last but not least he had strong and profound values that were his landmarks and constituted the foundations of his belief. Not negotiable even during difficult times: integrity, respect for antagonists, no shortcuts, respect of the rules.
So, what kind of lessons, today, can we learn from his performances, only in appearance, belonging to the past century? And how to apply those into our everyday professional (and why not also private) lives?
Below an interesting (but not exhaustive) decalogue:
1. Short-termism does not always, and necessarily, pay off
2. Victories (sweet) and defeats (sour) are ingredients of the same dish
3. Defeats and bad experiences should be seen as a precious source of valuable lessons to draw (and learn) from
4. Today defeat can be turned, thanks to the hard work and tenacious determination, into tomorrow achievements
5. Even when objectives are achieved, it is important to remain focused (and humble) and to maintain them with regular dedication. Nothing lasts forever. Allow your achievements to become comets and not meteors
6. Believe in what you do. Once you decide that what you intend to do is the right thing, then go for it
7. Making mistakes is not dramatic, it is just natural. Learning from mistakes is fundamental. Leveraging on average performances to build better ones is simply wise
8. Be determined and prepared to make sacrifices to achieve your goals. Mennea used to say “The effort is never wasted. You suffer, but you also dream”
9. Along the way remain open-minded and honest with yourself and the others
10. When doubts arise around your project, your goal, before giving up just watch the 200m Men final in Moscow and let yourself be inspired by his last 100m of race…
Would you have bet only one euro that he would have made it?
About the Author
Lucas Bruni, +20 years of diversified experience in various sectors of the Fund & Asset Management world. Luca initially spent more than 10 years on the operational side of the investment fund industry working for companies such as Templeton, Schroders and RBC Dexia – then 10 years in the advisory world focusing on several key areas such as Client management, People management, Business development / product development...
Luca is an expert on Italian and Swiss markets and joined Initio as Senior Manager in 2017.