The old man too had listened to the story of Nyad with keen interest. He joined the conversation with his own memoirs. “That reminds me of Kutraleeswaran from Tamil Nadu. As early as 1994, when he was hardly thirteen, he swam across six sea channels, including the English Channel and Pak Strait, thus beating the earlier, 30-year-old, unbroken record of crossing five channels in the same year by Mihir Sen.”
“Very true!’ responded Paramanand and continued, “The irony was, when Kutraleeswaran went to Italy, he was offered the best training facilities there, provided he agreed to represent their nation in the next Olympics and he declined the offer graciously. Back in India, unfortunately, he couldn’t get sufficient sponsorship to continue his swimming career, I heard.”
Now, even Sakthi offered a comment, “Unfortunately, we don’t get sufficient support and encouragement for sports persons in India, except the game of Cricket. In the school, the emphasis is only on scoring more and more marks. I hate it.”
“Of course, this is very unfortunate. But it is all changing. Big sponsors are discovering value for their investment in games like football, hockey, and tennis. Many sports leagues have come into being. Slowly, I am sure they would turn to other athletic games too.”
The old man offered the next most valuable comment. “To become successful, you need to have a goal – like that of the swimmer….. What is her name?… yes, Nyad… and you must be willing to do everything to make it to the goal. Only those who have that tenacity succeeds. It might involve a lot of struggle and hardship, but one should be prepared to go through them.”
Paramanand responded, “Remarkably said, Sir.” He then turned to Sakthi and told him, “In his book: ‘I Can’t Accept Not Trying – Michael Jordan on Pursuit of Excellence,’ the internationally acclaimed basketball player wrote a beautiful passage that I had memorized.
“I approach everything step by step… I had always set short-term goals. As I look back, each of the steps or successes led to the next one. When I got cut from the varsity team as a sophomore in high school, I learnt something. I knew I never wanted to feel that bad again…. So, I set a goal of becoming a starter on the varsity. That’s what I focused on all summer. When I worked on my game, that’s what I thought about. When it happened, I set another goal, a reasonable, manageable goal that I could realistically achieve if I worked hard enough… I guess, I approached it with the end in mind. I knew exactly where I wanted to go, and I focused on getting there. As I reached those goals, they built on one another. I gained a little confidence every time I came through.
…. If (your) goal is to become a doctor… and you are getting Cs in biology, then the first thing you have to do is get ‘B’s in Biology and then ‘A’s. You have to perfect the first step and then move on to Chemistry or Physics.
Take those small steps. Otherwise, you’re opening yourself up to all kinds of frustration. Where would your confidence come from if the only measure of success was becoming a doctor? If you tried as hard as you could and didn’t become a doctor, would that mean your whole life was a failure? Of course, not.
All those steps are like pieces of a puzzle. They all come together to form a picture… Not everyone is going to be the greatest… But, you can still be considered a success… step by step. I can’t see any other way of accomplishing anything.” This is what he wrote.
In this passage, Michael Jordan beautifully describes the importance of setting goals and how to go about it. Goals are what takes life forward and they are the oxygen to our dreams. They are the first step we take in our journey to our dreams and the last step too. Any planning you do for your future, regardless of what it is, is a goal.
Goals give you focus, help you measure your progress, help you stay locked-in undistracted, help you in avoiding procrastination and finally, help you stay motivated.
A traveler knows his destination, knows what his goals are. He also knows where he is right now – his present condition. All that he needs is a strategy, a path, a method, a tool to reach his destination. That he can do with proper planning and taking steps – taking action step by step.
In comparison, a wanderer roams around places without a purpose, without any clear-cut destination and usually ends up disappointed.
Again, Goals need to be SMART – Simple & Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Tangent, testable against Time.
Whenever your goals are too big for you to handle at once, you only need to split it into several smaller goals and achieve each one of them, step by step. Eat an elephant bit by bit. That is what MJ, as Michael Jordan is popularly called by everyone, did.
“Michael Jeffrey Jordan, born in 1963 in Brooklyn, New York, USA, started his athletic career while he was in the high school, playing baseball, football and basketball. When he went to the college, he wanted to enter the university basketball team during his sophomore year. But they rejected him, saying his 5’11” height was too short to play at that level. But he was not deterred by the rejection. He tried harder and became the star of Laney’s Junior Varsity squad and tallied several 40-point games.
He trained himself rigorously, grew four inches taller and soon was placed on the varsity roster. He earned an average of 20 points per game over his final two seasons of high school play.
When he became a senior, he got selected to the McDonald’s All-American Team, after averaging a triple-double: 29.2 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 10.1 assists. He was recruited by several college basketball programs.
In 1981, he accepted a basketball scholarship to North Carolina, where he studied Cultural Geography. He left North Carolina one year before his scheduled graduation to enter the 1984 NBA Draft. (National Basketball Association) The Chicago Bulls selected Jordan. He went back to North Carolina to complete his education in 1986.
He quickly emerged as a league star and a player of big scores. His success in several slam dunk* contests earned him the nicknames "Air Jordan" and "His Airness". He was considered as one of the best defensive players in basketball. In 1991, he won his first NBA championship with the Bulls and followed that achievement with titles in 1992 and 1993.
Although Jordan abruptly retired from basketball, before the beginning of the 1993-94 NBA Season to pursue a career in baseball, he rejoined the Bulls in 1995 and led them to three additional championships in 1996, 1997 and 1998, as well as an NBA-record 72 regular season wins in the 1995–96 NBA season. Jordan retired for a second time in 1999 but returned for two more NBA seasons from 2001 to 2003 as a member of the Wizards. In all, he played 15 seasons in the National Basketball Association for the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards.
He was one of the most effectively marketed athletes of his generation and was considered responsible for popularizing NBA around the world in the 1980s and 1990s. He had won several notable accolades and accomplishments that include NBA records for the highest career regular season scoring average (30.12 points per game) and highest career playoff scoring average (33.45 points per game). He was named the greatest North American athlete of the 20th century by ESPN, a two-time inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame – in 2009 for his individual career and in 2010 as a member of the 1992 United States men’s Olympic basketball team.
Jordan is also popular for his product endorsements. He was responsible for the success of Nike’s Air Jordan sneakers – introduced in 1985 and still remaining popular. He also starred in the 1996 feature film ‘Space Jam’ as himself. In 2006, he became part-owner and head of basketball operations for the then-Charlotte Bobcats, buying controlling interest in 2010.
Michael Jordan is known as one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Among other things, he developed an attitude of persistence. “Whenever I was working out and got tired and figured I ought to stop, I would close my eyes and see that list in the locker room without my name on it and that usually got me going again.” He never made excuses, he practiced hard, perfecting his game. His burning desire to be the best, his refusal to quit, to persevere, to practice, to do more than the minimum and careful planning towards his goals – all led to his name and fame.”
“Vow!” exclaimed Sakthi, when Paramanand concluded the story of MJ. “I clearly see the advantage of setting goals. I regret that no one had told me so clearly about goal setting so far. If the goal is such an important thing, then why do people have no goals?”
“It is a complete story by itself. To tell you briefly, people don’t set goals, basically, out of ignorance. Generally, out of fear – fear of the unknown, fear of the future, fear of failure, fear of loss of name. Complacency. Many times, not knowing how to set goals,” said Paramanand.
* A slam dunk, also dunk or dunk shot, is a type of basketball shot that is performed when a player jumps in the air, controls the ball(s) above the horizontal plane of the rim, and scores points by putting the ball directly through the basket with one or both hands.
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