These famous words by Henry Ford swirled around my head while I was watching the highlights of the Paralympics the other week, Alessandro Zanardi’s performance as he won his third gold stood out.
Alex’s third gold came on the eve of the 15th anniversary of the car crash that amputated his legs. Before this life changing event Alex was a professional Formula 1 and Indy car driver and on the day he crashed he was leading the race when he lost control and was hit by one of his rivals at more than 200mph.
“The car broke into two pieces, one bit of me stayed with the car and the other bit, which was my legs, went ‘arrivederci’ in the other direction” Alex famously said before competing at the London 2012 Games. The incident was so severe he lost all but a litre of blood and went into cardiac arrest more than once.
After such a traumatic event you could have excused Alex for giving up on sporting dreams; however, his attitude, summed up brilliantly in this quote, has spurred him on to greater success:
“My struggles are probably neither more nor less than other athletes… I try to take advantage of whatever happens. The life I have today is proof that everything is not always 100 per cent good or 100 per cent bad. My accident was the biggest opportunity of my life. It became my greatest chance.”
What a guy…!
This comment really spoke to me and after a period of reflection, Alex’s story has reinforced my opinion that we should:
Never give up – things will go wrong. It’s how you respond when it does that counts
Be clear about where you want to be – share your vision with others
Never be afraid to ask for help – rarely can you do it alone
Understand constraints – don’t let them stop you; manage expectations instead
And finally, that nothing beats purposeful hard work
To succeed, we don’t have to be the best technical expert in our field. We definitely don’t need to be the brain of Britain. But what we do need – what all of us need to succeed – is the right attitude.
Alex is no doubt an Olympian who has dug deeper than most of us will ever likely be asked to. But his story reminds me that while many of us will experience moments in life or in work where things feel out of control, the one thing we can always control is our attitude.
It may not always be easy, but the way we choose to approach a situation is always up to us – and choosing the right attitude will make or break us. Which is exactly what Henry Ford was saying to us many years ago.