Hello friends, I’m excited to be back to Atlanta and thereby to more frequent writing.
I missed my routine and habit of writing daily and looking forward to getting back on track starting with today.
Here’s something fascinating that I’d like to share. It’s a story about small wins related to building habits that can help you even in the face of uncertainty or adversity. Check out the below extract of 2008 Beijing Olympics from the book I’ve been reading “The Power of Habit” written by Charles Duhigg:
Phelps knew that something was wrong as soon as he hit the water. There was moisture inside his goggles. He couldn't tell if they were leaking from the top or bottom, but as he broke the water's surface and began swimming, he hoped the leak wouldn't become too bad.
By the second turn, however, everything was getting blurry. As he approached the third turn and final lap, the cups of his goggles were completely filled. Phelps couldn't see anything. Not the line along the pool's bottom, not the black T marking the approaching wall. He couldn't see how many strokes were left. For most swimmers, losing your sight in the middle of an Olympic final would be cause for panic.
Phelps was calm.
Everything else that day had gone according to plan. The leaking goggles were a minor deviation, but one for which he was prepared. Bowman had once made Phelps swim in a Michigan pool in the dark, believing that he needed to be ready for any surprise. Some of the videotapes in Phelps's mind had featured problems like this. He had mentally rehearsed how he would respond to a goggle failure. As he started his last lap, Phelps estimated how many strokes the final push would require – 19 or 20, maybe 21 – and started counting. He felt totally relaxed as he swam at full strength. Midway through the lap he began to increase his effort, a final eruption that had become one of his main techniques in overwhelming opponents. At 18 strokes, he started anticipating the wall. He could hear the crowd roaring, but since he was blind, he had no idea if they were cheering for him or someone else. Nineteen strokes, then 20. It felt like he needed one more. That's what the videotape in his head said. He made a 21st, huge stroke, glided with his arm outstretched, and touched the wall. He had timed it perfectly. When he ripped off his goggles and looked up at the scoreboard, it said "WR" – world record – next to his name. He'd won another gold.
After the race, a reporter asked what it had felt like to swim blind. "It felt like I imagined it would," Phelps said. It was one additional victory in a lifetime full of small wins.
Read a more detailed essay here by the man Charles Duhigg himself.