Talent is common; what you invest to develop that talent is the critical final measure of greatness. ~ Anson Dorrance
Almost four years to the day I was accepted into St. John Fisher College’s Executive Leadership Ed.D. program. I was nervous, a little anxious, and filled with hope that after 28 months I would be adding the letters Ed.D. at the end of my signature. Maybe hope isn’t the right word because I was going to finish this program. The time and financial investments were too great to not finish on-time.
From the first night of class, our professors told us about a dozen or so times every weekend that, “we needed to trust the process.” The process, as they called it, was a two-sided piece of paper. On that paper was our class schedule for the next 28 months. Every other Friday night and Saturday, 20 individuals would spend the better part of 12 hours learning more about ourselves, leadership, communication, excellence, integrity, trust, and teamwork.
Not everyone bought into the process. As we journeyed into that first summer, we had a major assignment due. For some, it was the tipping point. A 30-page literature review on our dissertation topic. If you didn’t trust the process by July, you were never going to trust the process.
In the end, I graduated and walked across stage with nine of my peers. It was an exhilarating experience. One I will never forget, as my two boys watched me walk across stage as our Dean of the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. School of Education read my name aloud. For those of us, we trusted the process. We trusted the fact that our professors had our ultimate best interest at heart. They wanted us to succeed. My dissertation committee wanted me to succeed. I wanted to succeed. Not only for my wife, but for my two boys, our third on the way, my parents, my brother, and my in-laws.
Reflecting back on the process, our success was brought upon by mastering the fundamentals. For my example of graduating with a doctorate, the most fundamental task of all was writing. More specifically, how our voice would be heard through our words. We had to write. Write a lot. Especially without a lot of time. All our classes lasted only eight weeks. We met four times over the eight weeks. The writing was tedious at times. And very frustrating.
However, the non-negotiable in this program, or any doctorate program is having the self-discipline to sit down and write. Again, writing is a fairly ordinary task. In this program, we all became masters of this ordinary task.
Putting your blind faith into someone or something is not what I’m recommending. In my example from Fisher, the plan had been developed and revised over the course of many years. To invest all that time and effort, we knew that our professors wouldn’t let us fail (although some did-long story). Much like my professors at Fisher, sport coaches lay out plans for athletes’ successes as well.
I don’t ask my athletes at Nazareth College to blindly follow programs without asking questions. I often question myself and what I wrote and explained if I don’t get any questions. Either I didn’t explain something well enough and they are afraid to ask, or the concept went way over their heads. As our relationships continues to build, and we trust and respect each other more, the process and journey becomes much more collaborate.
In the past I have had a few athletes that wanted to switch things up in the weight room or in the circle every couple of weeks because, as they said, “it’s not working.” Well, to be honest, most weightlifting programs aren’t going to be working after a couple of sessions. Neither are the drills that develop skills in the circle. It takes more than one training session to transition to a four turn hammer thrower. Similarly, it takes more than one training session to transition to the rotational shot-put technique if you have been a glider your entire career.
Technique isn’t going to be learned in a day, week, or month. It takes dedication, grit, and often times resiliency to learn proper throwing technique and mechanics, especially if you are learning a new technique or transitioning to a different style of throwing. The best of the best throwers continue to work on their throwing technique and mechanics. You can scroll through Instagram and you will see dozens and dozens of Olympic caliber throwers working on their technique.
Success is all about the fundamentals. And the fundamentals are little and ordinary and often boring. However, in order to be the very best you must master them. You must become a master of the ordinary. In every act of greatness, whether in throwing or academics, the best of the best accomplish extraordinary feats by doing ordinary things with extraordinary consistency, commitment and focus.
You are not going to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on Thursday, June 7th, 2018. However, you can assure yourself that you won’t qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the summer of 2020 if you haven’t started training for them today.
Much like they say in the sport of triathlon, you aren’t going to win the triathlon during the swim portion of the competition, but you sure can lose it during the swim portion of the competition.
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Dr. Charles Infurna
Charles Infurna, Ed.D., is the owner and lead coach of Forza Athletics Track Club. Dr. Infurna has coached National Record Holders, National Champions, All-Americans, and Conference Champions at the Post-Collegiate, Collegiate, and High School level.