Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Ride On Time

Riding a bike. At 79. For some odd reason that was one of the first things that jumped out at me when I read about the recent passing of Steven Covey, inspirational speaker/self-help guru/motivational leader. Engaged in life until the end, unfortunately, Covey never recovered from a cycling accident he'd had just a few months ago. I guess you could say he went with all guns blazing. His "Seven Habits of Highly People" is a landmark book I've mentioned before in this blog and something I sometimes turn to for inspiration. I highly recommend it.

By a twist a fate, another notable 79-year old passed away on the same day - Barton Biggs, one of the leading investment gurus of our time. He was best know for accurately predicting the economic rise of China and the bursting of the dot-com bubble in the late 1990s. 

Covey and Biggs, in my view, were two men of brilliant minds, leaving legacies and many followers across the world. But on a personal level, they kind of reflect two parts of me - one's world was more closely connected to what I do; one’s world was more closely connected to what I am. As a day job, I work in finance - not in the rarefied world of high investment finance like Biggs, but still broadly in that space. It's what I do and it pays the bills. Covey's world, however, touches on many areas of my existence. I've been into personal development, life coaching et al for many years, and I continually look to apply new principles that I've learned. Yes, Covey's work did bridge more business-related areas such as management principles, but ultimately for me he was about helping you find direction in life and making sure you did something with it.

It may be too simplified but, personally, Biggs' world represents making a living, Covey's represents making a life. Riding a bike. At 79. Says it all really. Either way, their deaths have helped re-focus my own thoughts on what is important to me. A fond farewell to both of you.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Hit Me With Your Best Shot

It's that time of year again. Wimbledon. Two weeks of the finest tennis you'll see anywhere on the planet, at the mercy of the Great British summer and overpriced strawberries and cream. 

I would never say that I was a officiando of the sport, but having grown up not a million miles away from the tournament I've always got wrapped up in the whole fortnight.

It was never hard to be inspired by some of the many greats that walked the hallowed turf on Centre Court: Becker, Williams, McEnroe, Navratilova, Sampras, Graf, Agassi, Evert, Borg and on and on we go. 

So it's no surprise that Britain's obsession with finding its next Wimbledon singles winner, akin to the second coming of a messiah, is about to go into overdrive. Andy Murray, the dour-faced but steely-determined world number 4, is pitted in the men's final against one of the greatest players that has ever walked this earth, Roger Federer

Of course, this is flag-waving tabloid heaven. St George against the Dragon (albeit Murray is Scottish and not English), immovable object against irresistible force, the Dunkirk spirit of backs against the wall stuff. And all in what's been packaged as a glorious year for the UK - the Queen's Diamond Jubilee (Britain's last singles winner, Virginia Wade, was in the Silver Jubilee year); the London Olympics; and the opening of the Shard, the tallest skyscraper in Western Europe and a symbol of renewed national belief.

I may be a bit of a" lapsed Brit" these days, insofar as I haven't lived there for much of the last decade, but none of the symbolism escapes me. But turning to Murray the man, I found it really interesting reading a piece he wrote prior to his semi final. He said how he likes to chat with other athletes, especially individual athletes, because the mindset is similar to that of tennis players. 

Boxing was a particular area of interest, as they are so strong mentally, work extremely hard and ultimately put themselves in danger if they're not focused. But they are also like the rest of us, albeit able to switch it on when it counts. Mike Tyson, for example, has said he has "often walked to the ring petrified he might lose, but as soon as he stepped in there he thought nobody could beat him, he felt invincible."

I guess the reason this has resonated with me is because we forget sometimes how very human great sportsmen and sportswomen are. They can be determined, they can be focused, they can be nervous, they can be angry, they can lose the plot. They can be like you or I. 

There is nothing wrong as such with the "yes, we can" type platitudes but for me realising that people that we put on a pedestal are, deep down, no different to the rest of us is a very big thing for me. Get the mindset, the focus and application right, and you too can go places.

And on Sunday, may the best man called Murray win...