In Search of Greatness, a wonderful documentary

(The video at the end may autoplay.)

Our family just finished watching a great documentary called In Search of Greatness. I keep trying to find a way to describe it here, but it’s difficult because the implications of what the documentary uncovers is so far-ranging. I could just say it’s about what makes sports stars great, and that would be a nice sum up, but in talking about that, they uncover what makes everyone great at what they do.

I mean, at one point, Wayne Gretsky is talking about how parents will come up to him, parents who want their kids to be great hockey players, and they’ll ask him how many hours their kid should be practicing.

They want a specific number, and Gretsky says to the interviewer that he can’t really give them one because it was part of playing when he was a kid. He didn’t really keep track, and it’s not like his dad told him how often to practice. He played hockey because he loved it.

Not because his dad told him to practice. In fact, it’s implied, if I remember correctly, that if his dad had told him to do it, it would have taken the fun out of it and he wouldn’t have wanted to do it as much.

When hockey season was over, he’d throw his gear into the basement, pick up his glove and ball, and go play baseball.

And this turns out to be true for a lot of great athletes. They play the sport. (And often play more than one.)

What was also fascinating is that Gretsky wasn’t a natural hockey player when it came to what mattered physically. And Jerry Rice didn’t do so hot in the combine when it came to what most coaches looked for in a star player. And the undefeated heavyweight boxer, Rocky Marciano, was too short with a short reach.

What all of them have in common is that, because of those differences and obstacles, each of those players learned how to adapt.

Because they loved the sport. Because they loved to play that much.

Gretsky learned to come in from the corners and from behind the goal. Rice learned timing was everything for him, so he kept a running timer in his head. And Rocky learned he had to get in close and jab upward. (Forgive me, fans, if I’m getting the terms wrong.)

In other words, what made them great was not the number of hours they practiced, though they all practiced hard. It was how they mentally approached the game.

And this is true, I realized, of everything in life, whatever it is you decide to do. If you want to be great at it, you have to love it the way kids love their games. It has to be something you’ve chosen to do, not another chore to add to the list. And what matters most is your creativity. How do you overcome the obstacles in your way?

This is something that can’t be taught, though you can get tips from different sources. You either figure it out or you don’t.

And that is where the real talent lies.



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