Posted on April 16 2018
Michael C. Zourdos, Ph.D., CSCS
1. The difference is made by the work you do when no one is watching
2. To achieve a life goal, you will likely have to put in extra work outside of work hours
3. It’s not enough to want to be successful, you have to hate the idea of not achieving your goals
It’s 5:30am on a Thursday at the Bullis School track (Potomac, MD) in the summer of 2004. About 30 athletes were attending a summer conditioning program and we were all training for our various college team sports. “Why are you running so hard?” someone asked after I won the 4th consecutive 400m sprint, “coaches weren’t watching.” I didn’t respond and I never tried to motivate or correspond with that guy again, rather I just kept winning. This guy simply wasn’t on my level. It doesn’t mean he wasn’t as good or even a better athlete than I was, but he didn’t understand why we were training. He didn’t understand that these moments made the difference, he didn’t understand that I was training for myself and for much more than my sport, and he didn’t understand that everything you do helps you with everything else in life.
In a general sense, we’ve all been there. You have a paper due for school, a deadline for your graduate committee, a proposal due to your boss, a business plan to write for your own venture, or a training session to complete, and you are sitting at home by yourself. No one is watching, nobody is around to make you put the work in, and absolutely nobody will know what you do with this time until maybe a later date. You can put the work in or not, so in the words of Jigsaw ‘make your choice.’
In this situation, those that are ultimately successful realize there is NO choice. Instead, those that are successful simply get to work. The successful don’t work on the business plan late at night because financially it has to be done; this person works on the business plan late at night because he or she can’t live with themselves if it’s not completed. These are the little moments that set successful people apart. It’s easy to work hard or go above and beyond when someone is watching, it’s easy to give the illusion that your work ethic is strong, and it’s easy to talk a big game.
If one chooses not to work on their assignment (whatever it may be) while by themselves it won’t show for a while. Life will go on without anything changing, but reality will eventually set in. Graduation won’t come, the business won’t start, progress in the gym won’t occur, and ultimately this individual will have to live with their lack of progress. In reality, everything you do helps you with everything else in life, therefore being remiss about completing responsibilities in one facet of life may very well translate to negligence or laziness in another.
Now, if we are all being honest, we have all been in a situation where we have chosen to put the television on rather than work when nobody is watching. But, accomplishing the above doesn’t mean NEVER taking a night off, it simply means being consistent. There is no exact percentage of time in which you choose to work that means you are being consistent, rather be logical. Logically, if you think you aren’t being consistent with your work ethic when no one is watching, then you’re probably right. If you haven’t made progress toward finishing your research study or taking on the first client of your new business then you probably aren’t being consistent.
In reality, the time when no one is watching is often early in the morning or late at night. Yes, you’re tired at these times of the day, and yes you have already put in a full day’s work at school or in your day job, and yes you have taken care of your kids (I have one of those), and yes 4am is early. However, are you happy not reaching a goal you have set out? Are you going to be okay looking back and realizing that you could have simply woken up one hour earlier each day to accomplish your goal? Will you be pleased when you realize that your lack of effort in the gym creeped into your drive to start a new business? If you will be okay with that, then that’s fine, it really is.
In that case, you only want to be successful and you only want to win. Unfortunately, this isn’t enough. Those that are successful don’t just want it, they are willing to work for it because the fear and feeling of not accomplishing something far outweighs the feeling of succeeding. In other words, if you played a team sport, you likely remember the losses more than the wins. So, those that decide to work in the little moments that make the difference when no one is watching understand the following: Everyone wants to win, but winners hate to lose.
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