When I was in Europe in May I flew through London and got to visit with a very close friend of mine. Nicole and I met at Cornell, and we really hit it off athlete to athlete. She was studying in the hotel school and I was studying fine art. The ways in which we spent our time were very different besides our academic pursuits. She was in the pool practicing her water polo shots and defense while I was doing everything to run faster and jump higher at the track. Despite our disparate likes, both of us shared a love of sport.
While I was at school, she gave me “The Little Book of Olympic Inspiration”, what a thoughtful present it was. So many of the pages are dog-eared and offer up pearls of wisdom. A personal favorite is from Bobby Joe Borrow, a runner who struck gold in the 1956 Melbourne Games, “Whatever success I have had is due to being so perfectly relaxed that I can feel my jaw muscles wiggle.”
This resonated very much with me before I approached the bar to leap 2.15m in 2001…absolute calm and clarity led to a successful jump. This clarity wasn’t an instant type of thing that you can turn on and off. It is learned, practiced, and developed over long periods of time.
I’ve talked in the past about decision making and when to nuke ideas, I want to share a small excerpt from Daniel F. Chambliss, who is a sociology expert and also a coach.
Great accomplishments, we often assume, require heroic motivation: an intense desire to be the best, an inner strength beyond all measure, some special love of school, of family, of country. Some one of these, must, we think, drive the superlative athlete…In fact, world-class athletes get to the top level by making a thousand little decisions every morning and night.
If you make the right choice on each of these — decide to get up and go to practice, decide to work hard today, decide to volunteer to do an extra event to help your team — then others will save you ‘have’ dedication. But it is only the doing of those little things, all taken together, that makes that dedication. Great [athletes] aren’t made in the long run; they are made every day.
Jumping back to the summer of 2002, I can remember the best answer I ever heard to the question “What is an artist?” was from a 20 year old art student I was dating named Katie.
She simply replied, “Artists make decisions.”
That graceful answer has been with me for 8 years, I’ve never heard a better one…I’ve listened to many other people try to explain what an artist is, but it gets too complex and grandiose. Frequently people, including other artists, will lose their train of thought and become scattered in their definition.
Before I edited my artist statement for this year, it used to read “I’m in the business of communicating ideas. I solve problems. I think abstractly. I make decisions.” So applying Chambliss’ concept to an artistic career, one must make the same assumption — that an artist must, every day, make critical decisions that all add up to success…
So fast forward to 2010, presently Nicole is an water polo playing hospitality expert and will be marrying a British soccer fanatic in 2011. Clearly she’s been making the right decisions…Her club team the Otters has even competed (and won) against some national teams from eastern Europe. Recently I was asked to design their “save the date” card. I really enjoy looking at the happy couple in their respective sporting outfits in a simple red and black composition.