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Transferable Traits: Application

“Application isn’t blood, sweat and tears – but it is the willingness to show all three if called upon.”

by My Finish Line

Human nature has hard-wired us to try and achieve things with the greatest economy. We strive to introduce technologies that make effort a minimal part of our lifestyles. We want our waits to be shorter, our gratifications to be instant, and our efforts to be lessened. It shouldn’t be surprising therefore that we try and convince ourselves that we don’t need to work hard sometimes. We can easily rationalize to ourselves that our lack of application (or laziness) can be re-labelled as a quest for efficiency.

In this context, this is where the fine lines involved in sport can create positive traits that transfer to professional life. Since most individual sports are measurable against time (e.g. marathon running), distance (long jump), accuracy (golf), load (weight lifting); the performance itself is usually an accurate reflection of merit. You cannot run a 2h30min marathon out of nowhere, or wake up one day and rather fortunately post a round of -14 at golf. If shortcuts are taken, those shortcuts will ultimately be measurable in increased time or decreased weight or distance. There is little room to hide.

Yet even this traditional model of self-improvement, based on hard work, patience, and dedication is under attack. People no longer have a long time. People want results that manifest themselves instantly; otherwise boredom or concentration fatigue kicks in. Quick fixes, training aids and wonder programmes are eminently sellable. The multi-billion pound sports industry is itself a beneficiary, and possibly even a creator, of this ambiguity around hard work and effort. The idea that you can achieve great things with less and less effort has evolved from being a suggestion, to exist as a sellable prescription - especially to those that crave to believe it. Those that pound the roads and slave away fighting for every watt on the bike however will know the actual truth that once the lungs and the legs give in, the mind is all that can save you.

Achievement in sport, as it is in life, is measured by the actualization versus the expectation. In professional life or the business world, if the end goal is to work as an assistant, once this is achieved the desire and drive can subside. If the end goal is to be the chief executive, the inner fire and drive will exist in so long as that ambition remains unfulfilled. The same exists in sport.

For many runners, finishing an event is their ambition - not winning the race or qualifying for an Olympic event. Their level of preparation and application ultimately reflects that ambition. The traits of toughness, character, resilience of mind that they can gain through this regard in preparing for their goal in sport can become their own default setting in life.

The old adage is true – sport doesn’t build character it merely reveals it.