Management Talk: Challenge yourself

I was pretty impressed and inspired to hear about Fauja Singh - a centenarian marathoner who actually started running at the age of 89 and bettered his runtime each passing year - 6:54 at 89 and 5:40 at 92! Incredible, isn't it? He ran the marathon in Mumbai not so long ago at the age of 104.

11 Mar 2016 | By Suresh Ramakrishnan

I have heard people at the ripe age of 40 say that they are getting older and they are not as energetic as they used to be when they were young. So, are people like Singh just an exception with certain god-given energy?

At some point or other, common mindsets bog us all down. We follow a pattern because people ahead of us have done so. It ends up feeling natural and comfortable. Then there comes an odd human being, who chooses to ‘challenge himself’ and in turn, paves a new path and lesson for all of us.

This is common across various organisations I have been a part. Why isn’t it natural to challenge ourselves more often than we do?

It’s your passion that urges you to challenge yourself: Stephen Curry from Golden State Warriors (NBA) and the current MVP (most valuable player) has less than the average height of an NBA players and lowest in weight in his team (if you have seen a game of NBA, you will realise the importance of these two parameters), yet he gives a match-winning performance each time he comes on the court. He is one of the best three-point shooters the game has seen, with an amazing strike rate. He was not bogged down by what he did not have; he found areas where he could excel.

A challenge is not bravado, but an art of preparation: You cannot get up one fine morning to do fifty push-ups. It requires the right posture, control the breathing, and a certain shoulder strength which comes through practise and technique and raising the bar as often as you can. Yes, the starting point is always the intent to make a beginning.

Your awareness of being in a comfort zone: When a path appears all too familiar and the techniques are well laid out, you may fail to realise if it is a momentum you have set or you are sailing in one. In river rafting, rowing during calm keeps your pace intact and you continue moving leisurely giving yourself ample time to enjoy the river without any fear. It is the technique you adopt and more so, the preparation you undertake before entering a rapid that gives you a different pace – you need a person who can add weight to the front of the raft by crouching down, you need two able people on either side to raft continuously and swiftly to move ahead. You ride under the waves, the raft moves around dangerously but once you are out of the rapid, it is pure exhilaration.

You can choose to be Usain Bolt: He not only challenges our thinking of running fast, he also challenges his own previous record every time he enters the field. His preparation, sheer passion and ability to visualise new levels gets him there.

So, rise, shine and challenge yourself to surge ahead.

Suresh Ramakrishnan is the publisher at Haymarket Media (India).