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Lessons for Professionals from Olympic Legend Karoly Takacs

Personal Effectiveness 29th November 2016 Sonali Chakraborty

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The 2016 Rio Olympics opened with much ado and fanfare on 5th August and managed to captivate audiences across the nation. With 11,000 athletes competing in over 28 sports, the Rio Olympics was a set base for new champions to be crowned and history to be written and re-written. While remembering everyone who’d participated and won or not, it also becomes important for us to remember those Olympic legends who attained paramount success & inspired generations to come and one such athlete was Karoly Takacs.

Karoly Takacs was a member of Hungary’s world championship pistol shooting team & the country’s prospect for the 1940 Tokyo Olympics. However, during a training exercise in 1938, a defective grenade blew his right shooting hand. Instead of focusing on what he had lost, 28-year-old Karoly decided to focus on what he still had – a determination to succeed, mental strength, and of course, a healthy left hand. He went on to win 2 Olympic Golds & several awards at national level pistol shooting championships. His motivating story has been carved into eternity & has given him a place among the “Olympic heroes” of the International Olympic Committee.

Let us look at the top 3 takeaways from the Karoly Takacs story:

Operating from your circle of control

Karoly Takacs took responsibility for his own destiny. He consciously took the decision to not focus on the things that were beyond his control (he lost his right hand). Instead, he worked on his aim to win the championship with his left hand. He practiced tirelessly with his left hand, something that was in his circle of control. In today’s competitive & challenging work environment, it becomes very easy for professionals to pass the buck onto external sources for the failures they face. They focus on the weakness of other people, the problems in their surrounding environment, and circumstances over which they have no control. More often than not, this results in an attitude of blame and accusations, reactive language, and increased feelings of victimization. To succeed professionally, always proactively spend your time & energy on things that you can control & influence.

Mental grit

One of the most important lessons from Karoly Takacs’s story is that he was a man with the mental strength. He would bounce back from an extreme kind of adversity. The reason mental grit is vital for professionals is that when you are tough mentally & recover quickly, you don’t lose the momentum and drive required to take a particular task to a successful closure. Such professionals are the ones that do not dwell on problems or the past, but can turn obstacles into a source of growth & opportunity.

Related: 6 Reasons You Need Mental Strength At Work

Perseverance is the key to success

Takacs spent a month in hospital depressed both about the loss of his hand & the end to his Olympic dream. Most people under this circumstance would have quit & possibly spent the rest of their days feeling sorry for themselves. But this wasn’t the case with Takacs. He was a winner who knew quitting was not an option & although life was hard, he wouldn’t let it beat him down. After being discharged from the hospital, Takacs practiced by himself for months. No one knew what he was doing. He probably didn’t want to subject himself to the scrutiny of people. They might have discouraged him from his rekindled dream. This ultimately led him to win Gold in the 1948 London Olympics.

Related: How to Overcome the Fear of Negative Feedback

Professionals who have the ability to resiliently go on, even when their efforts are met with failure or disappointment, tend to achieve their goals & ambitions easily. More than any other quality in professionals, perseverance is one key factor which gets projects out of the door, hones talents in individuals & turns dreams into living, breathing realities. As Karoly Takacs often said, “Make a promise to your dreams as if you were making a promise to your child – I will always stand by you no matter what, I will never give up on you no matter what.”

Karoly Takacs is an excellent example of the infinite capabilities of human will power. He won two Olympic Golds in 25m rapid fire pistol events, both with his left hand and despite being right-handed. He is the answer to all those professionals who say that they can’t. Next time you get pushed against the wall at work, take a decision to act like a winner. Think about Karoly; in fact, think like him. Get up quickly, take action, and achieve your goals!


This article was first published in The Week.

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