In the Summer Olympics of 1988 at Seoul, Matt Biondi was expected to claim seven golds in Swimming. He came a cropper in the first two events, missing the gold. After these setbacks, people began to speculate on how Biondi would fare in the remaining events. Yet there was a psychologist named Dr Seligman who expected Biondi to do better than ever. And he was right: Matt Biondi claimed five gold medals in the remaining events.
Dr Seligman had studied Biondi’s personality in an experiment that he conducted along with the latter’s coach. Unlike most others, Biondi had the explanatory style or the ‘internal talk’ that could turn the course of events when the chips were down. In simple terms, he was ‘Optimistic’. For most people, a failure leads to an internal talk that blames themselves or casts limitations on themselves, such as, “I am not good enough …” But people like Biondi analyse failures more objectively, and they can do so because they are not passionate about winning. What! Yes, they are not as passionate about winning as they are about perfecting their craft. It is their passion for their craft or the ‘process’ that works for them.
Emotions can be self-perpetuating and can become habits. The blues after the lows lead to a vicious circle of blues and lows, each feeding on the other. A passion for the craft, on the other hand, is one high that is without a low. Every learning brings a kick and since learning is continuous, it becomes one incessant labour of love pegging away to perfection. And, hey presto, before long you slip into the zone or flow, reaching peak performance! Just as Brendon McCullum did when he slammed the fastest ton in test cricket. All that the man who helped put bums on seats, as Viv Richards himself said, wanted to do was hit every ball for a four or six and enjoy his last test. And before he knew, he had broken the record.