By lap three of seven I was already exhausted. My trainer told me to give 80 percent of my best effort at first and build up to “200 percent on the final lap!” As I rounded the bend before that last lap, he shouted, “I need you to be throwing up at the finish line!” Unfortunately, I duly obliged. But I finished well and clocked a great time.
Students of a large university have a funny way of distracting opposing basketball teams during free throw attempts. They place a “curtain of distraction” beneath the basket in plain view of players on the opposing team. Just prior to shot attempts, the students open the curtain to reveal something unusual like dancing unicorns, a purple-haired “grandma” waving a cane, or a lion wearing a tutu. Recently it was US Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, wearing his gold medals while pretending to swim.
When we considered remodeling our basement, our neighbors all recommended the same person for the job—Tony. He’s an experienced carpenter who shows up every day, delivers more than he promises, and finishes what he starts. People trust this handyman enough to give him their house keys and many let him keep the keys after he finishes the job. When they have a home repair project, they simply contact Tony and he comes over, lets himself in, and goes to work.
The next time you’re gazing into the night sky, consider that the closest star beyond the sun is more than forty trillion kilometers away. To reach that star you’d need to travel at the speed of light for more than four years! Incredibly, we can still see its light from earth.
Neuroscientists say our brains are flexible organs that harden over time. When one of our 100 billion neurons sends an electrochemical charge to another neuron, it opens a new path in the brain. If the neuron repeats this signal enough times, the path widens into a road and then a runway. The more we think about something, the more that thought becomes embedded in our brains. It might be easy to change our minds when experiencing a new thought. It’s more difficult when that thought has built a highway in our heads.
After winning the Masters in 1997, a pro golfer decided to change his swing, a decision that baffled golf experts. He wouldn’t win a major tournament for 2 years, but he eventually reestablished himself as the number one golfer in the world. The competitor asserted that unlearning his old swing was crucial, for he needed to get rid of bad habits in order to become a better golfer.
Albert Einstein may have suffered from Impostor Syndrome—the tendency for accomplished people to suspect they’re frauds. He said, “The exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease.” Few among us would question Einstein’s colossal contributions to physics. If he doubted his work, where do the rest of us stand?
As we grow older, we often come to the realization that certain people we doubted were right all along. How many of us have looked back and secretly wondered,If only I would have listened to my parents, who knows how many more opportunities I could have had? Who knows how many hurtful mistakes I could have avoided?
My springer spaniel was recognized as one of the most talented, hardworking dogs in our hunting community. He would go out on thin ice to retrieve game when other dogs would turn back. Pursuing a pheasant through the thickest bramble and thorn—areas that other dogs would not enter because it was so dense—wasn’t a problem. His determination was so great that he even made a retrieval immediately after breaking his leg! And yet, when he was just 18 months old, I wondered if he would ever be a good hunting dog. His determined personality seemed impossible to harness and I was ready to give up on him because it appeared he would never become an obedient companion.
As a Chinese person, I celebrated my new year on February 8. During the special New Year season, I greeted people with these words among others: “gōng xǐ fā cái” (happiness and prosperity) and “nián nián yǒu yú” (a wish for abundance and surpluses)—extending blessings of good health, prosperity, success, and happiness.
Every so often my wife and I will flip through family pictures and note how much our two boys have changed. I’m amazed at how small and childlike they were not so long ago. We’ve lived through these years with them and have witnessed their development. Yet their transformation has been so woven into the rhythm of our lives, we don’t notice the changes until we look back.
The Microsoft Corporation conducted a study on the human attention span, with somewhat funny and humiliating results. The researchers found that the modern person has an attention span of about 8 seconds, partly the result of the constant media bombardment that we endure on a regular basis. Compare this with the attention of a goldfish—9 seconds.
Recently, while I shopped for an appliance, a store salesman showed me two models. The less expensive one was a knockoff—a cheap imitation. The other had a sticker affixed attesting to its value and quality. Because it had been vigorously tested to stringent industry standards, I was assured of its safety and reliability.
If I’m hiking and camping out for several days, campfires are vital. And the most important thing I carry with me as I begin each day is a handful of charred sticks from the previous night’s fire. They’re the very best fire starters—no need to find tinder or other sticks. I just spark the charred ends, blow on them, and pile on a few fresh logs.
Roger Bannister was considered the favorite for the 1500m race at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952. He planned to retire if he won gold, but an unusual schedule at the Games affected his chances and he came in fourth. Instead of quitting, however, his disappointment spurred him on to continue competing. Two years later he went on to change sporting history. On the 6th of May in 1954 at the Iffley Road track in Oxford, England, Roger Bannister became the first man to run a mile in less than 4 minutes.