Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 17th 2015 Contents When things inevitably get tough in
life and in sport, the greatest threat
often arises insidiously from within
our minds in the form of the question:
"What the heck am I doing here?"
This question is never asked when
things are fun, the answer is just too
obvious then, but it waits for us, lurking
in our moments of greatest exhaustion,
pain and weakness. A champion is so
much more than just medals and titles.
A champion is a good answer to this
This question cuts through to the
very essence of our being. There can t
be a shadow of doubt. At that desperate
moment, when faced with this profound
self-inquiry, there better be an honest
answer. If you don t have one, or are
not honest with yourself at that point
about exactly what you are doing and
why you are doing it, you are going to
be in trouble as everything falls apart.
As Friedrich Neitzche said, "He who
has a why to live can bear almost any
how". The answer to that profound ques-
tion of "what the heck am I doing here?"
is what makes your mind your weapon
or your weakness. The answer gets you
up before the sun and drives you beyond
your comfort zone and sustains you out
there. This answer is the essence of
toughness and applies to everything,
from enduring the last few miles of a
marathon to the last few rounds of
Rudyard Kipling so eloquently
expressed this type of mental fortitude
with these lines from his famous poem
If you can force your heart and nerve
To serve your turn long after they are
And so hold on when there is nothing
Except the Will which says to them:
Fundamentally this type of endurance
only arises if your answer to the question
of "What am I doing here?" is good
enough. It can t come from anyone else
but yourself, and no one else has to
know it. The actual answer is unim-
portant; what is important is that you
believe it wholeheartedly.
For me, I know. The answer is always
changing, but to me, it s always a good
one; it has to be. I do it because I love
it, because I can, for those who can t,
and because it s a beautiful thing. A very
good answer can sustain a sporting
career for decades.
To gain experience, be consistent and
enjoy longevity, one must not be afraid
take time out to get re-inspired, re-
focus and set new goals. The answer to
our question is going to change as we
change. In order to have a good answer
it will become absolutely necessary to
take a step back from the routine and
the grind to reassess things and re-
answer that question from time to time.
This is as much a part of being a
champion as the act of consistently per-
forming at the top of your game. Gary
Hall Jr won Olympic silver medals at
the 96 Olympics; he then took time
off, and returned to win the gold at the
2000 Olympics. Then after again taking
almost two years off focusing on other
interests, he returned to live a spartan
existence of tirelessly toiling after per-
fection for another two years, despite
suffering from diabetes, to once again
win the gold at the 2004 Olympics.
For him, the answer to that simple
but profound question of "What the
heck am I doing here?" was worth more
than all the minor competitions missed
and passionless days of going through
the motions during his years away from
the sport. His answer, even though he
took time away to find it, ensured his
longevity, which gave him the experience
to finish on top the Olympic podium
quadrennial after quadrennial.
I am always impressed by consistency
more than anything else when it comes
to athletes and their sporting careers.
From experience, I know that behind
the impressive consistency lies great
willpower, tenacity and toughness that
arises from having a perfect answer to
the question, and I always wonder what
it might be for each person.
• Find George on Twitter:
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Tuesday, November 17, 2015
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What the heck
am I doing here?
Gary Hall Jr won Olympic silver medals
at the 96 Olympics; he then took time
off, and returned to win the gold at the
2000 Olympics. PHOTO: GARYHALLJR.COM
"The answer to our question is going to change as we change. In order to
have a good answer it will become absolutely necessary to take a step
back from the routine and the grind to reassess things and re-answer that
question from time to time."
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