“Every problem is an opportunity for glory.” Anonymous
1924 Olympic gold medal runner Eric Liddell started a 440 yard race and within the first 10 steps a contestant elbowed him in the kidney and dug his spikes into his foot. Liddell tumbled to the ground and off the track, his foot gushing blood. Thinking he had been disqualified for leaving the track he stopped running and watched the other runners cruise down the track. Until a voice like an unmistakable crack of lightning pierced through the crowd, his coach, “RUN!”. His opponents already 20 yards away, the distance seemed insurmountable. The crowd watched Liddell instead of the race leaders as he crept back to the last runner, then the next, and the next. With 40 yards to go in the race he distanced just two strides away from the the race leader. Liddell crossed the finish line 6 strides ahead. Liddell passed out after finishing due to overexertion and woke up half an hour later in the change room. The attending offered him a sip of brandy, he refused, “just a strong cup of warm tea”.
Eric Liddell, head back chest forward crossing the finish line.
Eric Liddell’s triumph in that race would not have been possible without the problem of his opponent’s elbow and spike. This is the great benefit of being the underdog. The greater the difficulty, the more seemingly impregnable an obstacle, the greater the glory. Every problem is an opportunity in disguise. I believe many of our perspectives are amiss on the subject of problems. One thing is certain, the more you tunnel vision the problem, the less likely you are to solve it. Take a step back away from the problem and guide your mind toward solutions, don’t bother with the problem. When Eric Liddell realized he was in fact still in the race he didn’t stop and think about how long it was going to take him to catch up, he didn’t consider how massive the problem was, he didn’t walk over to his coach and complain about the effort needed, HE RAN. Liddell thought about the solution.
Many of my squash comrades have described being in the “zone” while playing. They often say something like ‘I don’t know what happened, I just played’. When a difficult call came their way or a string of tough shots twisting and turning them around the court they simply got the ball back and then switched to offense and won the rally. They didn’t worry about anything other than what they needed to do in that moment. Athletes are basically facing problem after problem while playing and their job is to solve them. Every great athlete has a switch that when turned on they are 100% in the moment, no problems, only solutions.
Some people organize their entire lives around being in this zone. Neil Young often appeared flaky because whenever he had a spark of musical inspiration he would stop everything he was doing in that moment and go off to a quite space until he got everything out of his head and onto paper. Sting is probably one of the best examples. Sting brings with him on tour a 10 foot by 10 foot square portable room made up of four rods, one in each corner, and thick curtains, the same curtains as he has in his home that way he is comfortable. His crew places the room in a quiet area which he spends between 1 – 4 hours a day in attempt to enter into this zone. He will play different instruments, sing, and write down new material. Coming up with new material is never a problem.
Sting performing in Serbia on his 57th and 9th world tour.
How can we enter into this zone in our day to day lives? It requires breaking a habit that is seemingly so ingrained in us, stop focusing on the problem. Almost every problem has a solution in our lives and if we can skip the step of grumbling over it success is sure to come. My wife recently had a bad cold, she was bed ridden for two days with tissues scattered around the house. For one of the first times since I began seeking the solution instead of the problem I thought, this is an opportunity to show the woman I love just how much I love her. So for the next two days a tried my best to spoil her with love and make sure her every need was cared for. We went through many pots of tea and by the third day she was up and about feeling better, that night she told me “you’re my hero”.
What solution will bring forth glory today?