10 Quotes From and About Elite Performers Explaining What it Took to Reach Greatness
One of the things I have always been interested in is the difference between the people who perform at the absolute highest levels and the rest of us. We’re not just talking about the sort of people who are good at what they do, we’re talking about the best of the best. NBA MVPs, Olympic Champions, captains of industry.
If I could sum up what I learned about people like that in one word, it would be, “obsession.” These are typically people with some kind of an edge, whose entire life could basically be boiled down to one thing for a long, long time. Whatever that one thing was, they gave everything they had to it and everything else, including their family, personal life, and all other interests came second if they placed at all. It didn’t mean these people didn’t love their families or care about things other than their obsession, but they gave everything they had to it and if there was anything left over that’s what everyone and everything else got.
I was thinking about that while reading Eddie Hall’s biography. If you haven’t heard of Eddie Hall, he was the 2017 Strongest Man of the Year and at one point, he held the world deadlift record of 1,102 pounds, which was such an incredible feat that at the time, many knowledgeable people didn’t think it was humanly possible:
This is a man who could fairly be called one of the greatest strength athletes in all of human history. Do you want to know what it took for him to get there? These two quotes should give you an idea:
* “I had every hour of every day mapped out FOR A YEAR in advance of World’s Strongest Man 2017. When I talk about preparation, that’s what I’m talking about. That’s the standard required to succeed at an elite level.”
* “One doctor said to me, ‘If I were to draw up a list of people in the UK right now who are most at risk of heart attack, most at risk of stroke, I would put you, Edward Hall, top of both those lists by a country mile.’ It was scary to hear that from a doctor and those words haunted me every night before bed. Sleep terrified me. Every time I closed my eyes, I was convinced that I wouldn’t wake up. To live under the shadow of that was tough in the extreme. Yet there was a part of me that was able to put that anxiety to one side. Each morning that I awoke, I continued on my path to getting bigger, undeterred, and undaunted. The fear of death was the price I was willing to accept in order to achieve my dream. That’s why it felt like I was skirting the line of suicide because I was willingly and recklessly taking these risks with my body. But I didn’t care. I needed that trophy home on my mantelpiece.”
What is he describing there? That really is the level of dedication the absolute best-of-the-best have when it comes to success. A lot of us talk about doing “whatever it takes,” but these people really meant it. Eddie Hall was figuratively and literally ready to give his life to achieve his goals.
That’s not for everybody. I push myself a lot harder than most people and it’s not even for me. However, in a world where a lot of people minimize what it takes to be successful and chalk it up to “luck” or “knowing the right people,” it’s good for people to get a very real look at what success at the highest levels entails. Many of us may not even aspire to have this level of commitment to something, but it’s good for people to understand what it takes to get there.
1) "Doctors and scientists said that breaking the four-minute mile was impossible, that one would die in the attempt. Thus, when I got up from the track after collapsing at the finish line, I figured I was dead." -- Roger Bannister, the first man to run a sub-four-minute mile.
2) "Grover says (Kobe) Bryant 'never stopped;' he was always working to improve himself. For instance, Bryant constantly questioned Grover about every aspect of his training — he needed to know why and how everything worked, Grover writes.
Bryant also carried a DVD player to watch game films over and over wherever he was. Breaking down the film on every game and on every opponent helped him strategize for every possible scenario before a game, Grover says.
'From 2:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m., that was Kobe’s focus…unless he was in the gym putting up shots,' Grover writes.
'If there was an open gym at 3:00 a.m. and he wanted to work on something, he’d be in that gym,' writes Grover.
Grover says he would sometimes have to make him leave so Bryant could get some rest. But Bryant would find a way to sneak back (which meant Grover didn’t get much sleep either, just naps).
'Of all the things we worked on, the most challenging was simply getting him to stop,' Grover writes." -- Kobe Bryant's trainer Tim Grover talking about Kobe Bryant's mentality. Kobe Bryant was an 18-time NBA all-star, had 5 NBA championships, won 5 NBA scoring crowns and was league MVP once.
3) Question: Do you have any regrets, training-wise or bodybuilding-wise?
"The only regret I had is when I was doing that 800-pound squat, I didn't do 6 reps because I knew I had 6 in me. But I didn't know that until I put it up because that was my first time ever trying it. Yeah, if I had done it... I got 6 season reps on camera and I would have been fully satisfied. But because I didn't do it, that's the only regret I ever have in the sport." -- Ronnie Coleman, the 8-time Mr. Olympia who had 13 spine surgeries and walks around on crutches today because of injuries he suffered training for Mr. Olympia:
4) "(David) Goggins, who at this point was 250 pounds and enjoyed weightlifting, had no idea what the race was. He had run approximately 20 miles in the entire year and had never attempted long-distance running.
Goggins didn't realize that the Badwater 135 is considered by many to be the most challenging race on the planet — a 135-mile continuous run across three mountain ranges in extreme heat. Competitors cannot simply sign up for the race either; they have to qualify for it by proving they can run 100 miles in 24 hours or less.
'I was like, is that even possible?' said Goggins.
Fortunately, Goggins discovered there was a 100-mile race near his home in San Diego in three days, giving him no time to prepare. Somehow, he still managed to run 101 miles in 19 hours and 6 minutes.
'By mile 70, I was destroyed — I was dizzy, lightheaded, peeing blood,' said Goggins. 'But I was able to draw on my experiences from BUD/s; I was able to draw on being calm.'" -- A description of how David Goggins got into ultra-marathoning. Goggins is a former SEAL who has won several 100-mile ultra-endurance races and at one time had a world pull-up record.
5) "My training regime was perfect. I had an army of specialists – physios, sports psychologists, doctors, hypnotists. You name it, I had it. I even built my own hyperbaric chamber just to squeeze an extra 1 percent from my recovery sessions. Finally, I was consistent. I did the hard work. I didn’t miss one training session, I didn’t miss one meal and I didn’t miss one minute of any recovery session. In short, I was perfect, and I was perfect for two years. I had to be. For all that work and sacrifice I was rewarded with a perfect two-week performance at World’s Strongest Man 2017. " -- Eddie Hall, 2017 World’s Strongest Man and one-time world deadlift record holder.
6) "I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." -- Michael Jordan
7) "Elon Musk typically works 80–90-hour weeks blocked out in 5-minute increments. He sleeps 6 hours per night, often sets aside 5 minutes to gulp down his lunch, and spends ‘quality time’ with his kids when he’s handling emails." -- Elon Musk is currently the world’s richest man:
8) "In swimming, when you miss one day of training, it takes you two days to get back. In six years, I never missed a single day. It made me better than athletes who took a Sunday off. But now that I am out of the pool, if I go back again, I don’t feel the same. I have lost it. So no comebacks." -- Michael Phelps, 23-time gold medal-winning swimmer.
9) "Even as a boy, he bought candy by the pound, divided it into small portions, then sold it at a tidy profit to his siblings. By age seven, encouraged by his mother, he was dropping gold, silver, and copper coins that he earned into a blue china bowl on the mantel... John (Rockefeller’s) first business coup came at age seven when he shadowed a turkey hen as it waddled off into the woods, raided its nest, and raised the chicks for sale. To spur his enterprise, Eliza gave him milk curds to feed the turkeys, and the next year he raised an even larger brood. As an old man, Rockefeller said, ‘To this day, I enjoy the sight of a flock of turkeys, and never miss an opportunity of studying them.’" -- From Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.. Rockefeller was the world’s first billionaire and by some accounts, his net worth was 2% of the entire country’s wealth at one point.
10) "(Arnold Schwarzenegger) became so dedicated to bodybuilding, he began breaking into his local gym on the weekends when it was closed so he could train: ‘It would make me sick to miss a workout… I knew I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror the next morning if I didn’t do it." -- Arnold Schwarzenegger won Mr. Olympia 7 times.