Sports is a terrific metaphor for life and there are several sporting stories that inspire and motivate us. Karoly Takacs’s story perhaps should top the list.
Károly was the top pistol shooter of the country back in 1938 (age – 28 yrs). He won most of the major national and international championships. He seemed closest to winning the 1940 Tokyo Olympic Games gold medal. All the dreams turned to dust one day. A hand grenade exploded in Károly’s right hand, his shooting hand at an Army training session. That hand grenade ended up destroying his shooting hand and his Olympic dream.
“Of all the people in the world, why me?” Like most of us Károly could have asked this question “why me?”. But he didn’t. Now I am not very sure what happened during the time he was hospitalized. But chances are people were discussing about the tragedy that has fallen on him, about how cruel can the creator be?, about what will he do in future. I am pretty sure people would have discussed these things. But not Károly, he had nerves of steel, stainless steel. He could have looked for sympathy. Instead he looked for ways to convert his dream into beautiful reality.
After spending a month in hospital, he decided not to feel pity for himself for the rest of his life. He held on to his Olympic dream. He had the will, he had the attitude, he had the determination to succeed, and he figured he had a healthy, fully functional hand. He decided to practice shooting from his left hand. Despite the pain he had to undergo, despite the fact that he was not left handed, he focused on his goal and practiced. To achieve anything worthy in life one needs attitude and will. Skills and techniques can learned, can be taught, but not will. He chose not dwell in the world of facts, he chose to explore the world of possibilities. He was determined to make his left hand the best shooting hand in the world.
One year later Károly resurfaced at a National shooting championship in Hungary. His colleagues were delighted to see him and complimented him on his courage to come up at the championship to cheer for them. But Károly surprised them by saying he was there to compete with them. And he won. One year after losing his right hand and he trained himself and won. Who in the world except Károly himself would have thought this was even possible. People who believe in facts will never be able to explain this. Facts leave no room for possibilities.
Károly’s Olympic dream could not be fulfilled for quite some time as two Olympic Games were cancelled due to world war. In 1948 Olympic Games were held in London. Károly was chosen to represent Hungary in pistol shooting event. Károly never felt he was beneath any individual. He practiced, he participated, he WON. Shooting with his left hand. Imagine being a gold medal favorite, losing your shooting hand in an accident, yet picking yourself up from a shattered mess, training your left hand to shoot as well (or better), and going on to win the Olympic gold medal.
Four years later, in Helsinki Olympics. Károly won another gold medal in shooting event. Shooting with his left hand. This is the stuff champions are made of. We all have faced failures in life, we feel defeated, crushed, beaten. The next time you feel that think of Károly. Don’t cry and say why me? Don’t worry about what you’ve lost, focus on what you still have. No hand grenade can blast your will, mental strength and determination. Don’t lose yourself to self pity. get up quickly and do it now. Many great speakers of the world have confirmed this fact. In words of Confucius “ Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall “. Károly was out practicing in a month after the accident. He never let self-pity to take control.
Prakash Iyer mentioned in his book The Habit of winning “Winning a gold medal in Olympic is less about the hand, more about the mind. Life is like that. Winning is less about skills, more about attitude“.
Source: The Habit of winning by Prakash Iyer.