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My Medical Device Sales Career

What Makes A Champion? Martina Navratilova Shares IT with us, but most won't do IT, Will You?

As some of you know, who follow my blog, I was on vacation two weeks ago in Michigan and before I left I stayed with my friend Marty. If you remember, I had answered her question about why it was difficult for her MBA daughter to find a job in this marketplace, and yes she did reward me with yet another glass of wine (thank you Marty!).

I now had one more night before I had to fly back to Los Angeles. Marty and I had been friends since we were 5 years old and let’s just say we are of an age that there is more to reflect back upon than the number of years left to plan upon! I began to think of my return trip to Los Angeles the next morning and how different it was compared to Ypsilanti, MI!

My thought went to how my family, who lives in the outskirts of Los Angeles, will see the random movie star or second tier actor shopping at our local Costco or slurping up their Chai Tea at Starbucks. I began thinking about that excellent program, Inside the Actors Studio with host James Lipton, who always seems to artfully embed the same question into each interview, “Mr. or Mrs. Famous, can you tell me if you have any regrets in life? Any regrets at all”?

I am always amazed at the number of these ultra successful who answer with, “I have no regrets”! Young and old seem to have the same response. Maybe it is because they have beaten the odds and have all the worldly goods of wealth and fame. Knowing there is more to life than those two elements (although I wouldn’t mind trying them on for a few months!), I am still surprised at the large number who indicate that they have no regrets, not one. Some of the famous who speak these words are well known to have had serious personal issues in their past (drugs, multiple divorces and etc.!); yet no regrets.

I decided to share my observations with Marty about the large number of famous people who apparently have no regrets in life and decided to throw out the question for us to ponder about our own lives. Without too much hesitation, Marty replied, “Yes, my regret is that I didn’t do enough”. I looked at her with a quizzical look that begged more. She went on to explain, “With my job in the early years I lived in a ton of different cities from New York to San Francisco. I didn’t do enough in each city to truly experience all that each had to offer, I was too busy working”. We determined that it was not a huge regret and, it might not be the same, but she could go back to visit each and do it! She surprised herself as she said, “Of course I can! Why did I not think of this before? It is not too late”!

Now it was my turn to respond, and I have known my answer for years, so it was not too difficult to answer. I also knew my regret was not as easy to fix, no going back to revisit and change decisions of the past. I then told Marty, “My regret in life became apparent to me years ago and yet I just couldn’t find the strength to change it until very late in life”. I then told her that I realized in my mid-30’s I had the fear of failure. I made sure I made decisions that placed me in situations where I knew I could excel and have an easy win; it was enough to outwardly appear successful to others, but not truly a stretch to my inner desires. I could not make decisions that would really put it on the line and push my abilities to see how far I could go; I played it safe.

My safe moves included not entering the accelerated Medical Program at the University of Michigan to become a medical doctor (even though accepted). It meant later in my mid 20’s to go the safe corporate route and get a medical sales job with a big company, instead of forging ahead with my moderately successful business that I started all by myself! The list can go on to less important decisions, but there it is: risk aversion.

What was the cost? Who knows? That is the problem without taking a risk, one will never know how much they could have accomplished, it is left to only dream and wonder what perhaps could have been. I came home from my Michigan vacation and awaiting me was an article by Kate Meyers, published in the Parade Section of the 8/29/10 Sunday Los Angeles Times, that brought the whole discussion full circle. Kate's article, A Winning Friendship, was an excellent interview with two Tennis Greats from my era, Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert. She asked the following question of each:

What is it that you both have that champions need?

Chris Evert: The mental part of my game. A lot of players were faster and strong, but I think being able to just zero in and focus was my strength.

Martina Navratilova: I think the ability to fail. Not being afraid to put it all on the line and come up short. Most people don’t have that.

There it was, so timely and in black and white print; in Martina’s own words, she had the ability to fail and she felt this helped her become a champion. Certainly we all know that ability, skills and focus (as Chris pointed out), are also needed to be a champion. Perhaps if we could step back and truthfully evaluate our own skills, resources and uniqueness (and not sell ourselves short) we could discover the recipe for having no regrets in life. It’s understanding our strengths and our true desires in life and pushing ourselves to reach just beyond our safety to a point where indeed we just may fail, but also we could possibly succeed. Whether failing or succeeding, it is the ability to pick up again and do it all over again with the bar set a bit higher!

So now I ask you; do you have any regrets in life? Maybe you are fortunate and can answer that question with a resounding, “no”. Perhaps you have a regret like Marty’s, one that can be revisited and resolved. Perhaps for the rest of us, there is no going back to change the past, but only the opportunity to begin making decisions that can change our future; decisions that weigh the risk and reward and not being afraid to put it all on the line. It's about learning how to make and take a calculated risk and yes, how to face the possibility of failure and coming out on the other side in one piece regardless of how it goes. It is learning to be brave enough to risk failing to achieve what we really desire in life, maybe that is what famous actors and sport champions discovered early in life and they have no regrets, because they were willing to do IT!

See related articles by Kathy Holdaway: On The Edge Of Greatness & Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You!

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Tags: leadership

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Comment by Linda Hertz on November 2, 2010 at 12:57am
Thanks....GO FOR IT with a back up plan!
Comment by Elyse Martin on November 1, 2010 at 11:50pm
great article.

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