In 1936, Berlin, Germany held the world’s attention.
Athletes from around the world traveled to the center of German power, led by Adolf Hitler, to display their athletic prowess in the XI Olympiad.
It was the year American Jesse Owens captured four track and field medals — the first American to do so, cementing his place in Olympic history.
But off in Wannsee, southwest of Berlin, Germans, Scandinavians, and other global powers were battling it out for something different — shooting medals.
Eight Hungarians competed. One took silver in the men’s 50-meter rifle, prone. But their best shooter was conspicuously absent. He was Karoly Tackas, a sergeant in the Hungarian army.
But since only commissioned officers were allowed to compete, he was forced to remain home while two Germans and a Swede took their places on the podium in his favorite event: 25-meter rapid fire pistol, where targets are only visible for an increasingly smaller amount of time. Any competitor who misses a target is automatically ineligible for the next round.
The rule barring non-commissioned officers to compete was lifted for the 1940 Olympics, and Karoly knew the event would be his to win.
So did everyone else in the competition.
A year later, everyone continued to believe he’d take gold in the Tokyo Olympics as he cleaned up in event after event. He won them all.
You could say he was the man with the golden right hand. That’s what everyone called him. He believed it too.
All of that changed one day in a routine military training session.
As he prepared to lob a grenade, like had done thousands of times before, something was different.
Pull… Click… Boom…
But the boom of the explosion felt too close.
He held a faulty grenade. Or rather, he had held a faulty grenade. It exploded early.
Looking down, he saw a bloody stump. Gone was his right hand — and his dream of 1940 Olympic gold.
For a month, Karoly lay in the hospital bed, feeling useless. Utterly depressed.
But he determined to figure it out.
As soon as he was out of the hospital, he taught himself to shoot left-handed.
At first, he could barely hold the pistol — nevermind shoot straight.
But he was maniacally focused on getting this right so for a full-year, he trained to do the opposite of what came naturally — shoot with his weak hand.
Frustratingly, agonizingly, he started to make progress using his left hand.
Late in 1939, he stepped back into the public spotlight and competed in Hungary’s National Shooting Championship.
His friends were shocked to see him there and thought he had come to spectate.
“I’ve not come here to watch. I’ve come here to win”, he told them. And win he did.
He was back, and ready for the 1940 Tokyo games.
But he faced circumstances beyond his control.
Germany ignited a global war by attacking Poland. The 1940 Olympics were canceled. And so were the 1944 games.
He grew depressed and frustrated. Yet through all of this, Karoly persisted. Shooting. Training. Improving his craft.
It was a full 10 years later — in 1948 — when the world would finally come together for the Olympics games set in London.
As British athlete John Mark circled the track in Wembley stadium to light the cauldron in front of thousands, the stadium’s marquee held these words:
“The important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning, but taking part. The essential thing in life is not conquering, but fighting well”
That could have been Karoly’s motto.
He had fought well to come back from the hospital bed to his country’s winner’s podium. Now it would be time to step onto the global stage and fight for his dream. Gold in the 25-meter rapid fire pistol event.
Quiet and steady, Karoly didn’t let on to the inner flame burning in his soul.
When the world record holder, and favorite to win, Carlos Díaz Saenz Valiente approached him, confused why he attended, Karoly replied, “I’m here to learn”.
But it wasn’t even close. Karoly shot better with his non-dominant hand than anybody else in history had with their good hand.
On the podium, after setting both an Olympic record and a world record in the process, Díaz Saenz Valiente turned and said, “You have learned enough”.
He had accomplished the unthinkable. With one hand. With the wrong hand.
Four years later, Karoly was back at the Olympics to defend his title as the world’s best rapid-fire pistol shooter. He fell one point shy of tying his Olympic record score of 580 points from the London games.
Karoly went on to rack up 35 national shooting championship wins in Hungary during his life. All of them with his left hand.
His story illustrates a powerful lesson about what you do.
The difference between where you are and where you want to be is what you do. Your actions directly lead to your results.
You are what you do. That’s important to remember because you’ll find yourself stating emphatically from time to time that what you’ve done doesn’t adequately describe who you are.
That the results are somehow skewed. That what you have just done isn’t “who you are.” And certainly, there’s a little bit of truth to that.
The results you’ve experienced so far are the results of who you were and what you have done — not who you are and what you are working towards now.
Your history will show everyone if you have changed.
Actions lead to results. Results lead to your lifestyle.
If you want a better lifestyle, then you need to change your actions. Think about that with me for a minute.
Whether good or bad, you aren’t anything, until you do something.
- A murderer isn’t a murderer until they take someone’s life.
- A winner isn’t a winner until they come in first.
There are a lot of things that happen before that label is applied.
That person who goes on to be a murderer might have started off angry and petty. They might have felt marginalized and under-appreciated, simmering in a stew of passive aggression and resentment.
But they aren’t yet a murderer.
They might not even be thinking about it.
But given enough time, as anger takes hold and emotions swing wildly out of control, what used to be just a thought and a bad attitude becomes an action that can never be undone.
The same is true with success.
You’re going to spend a lot of time thinking about it, planning it and possibly even pursuing it at some level. But you can’t call yourself successful at whatever goal you’ve set out for yourself until you actually achieve that goal.
Until you cross the finish line. Until you do that thing you set up for yourself as a prize. Everything else is just words and thoughts and aspirations.
If you want to change who you are then you need to do different things.
If you don’t like the results you’re getting, you need to do different activities. Put in different efforts. Attempt something new.
All too often we find ourselves saying things like “I don’t do that” or “I’m not the type of person who is into that” or “That’s just not who I am.” Well, maybe that’s who you need to be.
Especially if it’s the thing that gets you closer to where you need to be.
That’s the point, isn’t it? If you’re not where you want to be then, until you figure out what’s missing, your only move is to try something different.
Sure, it’s going to be uncomfortable and awkward at first. You’re likely going to fail a bunch of times before you figure it out.
But you are already failing now, so what do you have to lose?
We each have bad habits we want to fix. We all look at certain areas of our life with disdain, hoping those things will change. We have this fantasy that we can read good books and attend inspiring webinars, meditate a bit more, adopt some journaling habits and do some other light “life-scaping” — and that will solve the problem.
But it doesn’t. And it won’t. Not all by itself. You have to change the actions.
You have to do something different. Because what you do determines who you are. And the results that you realize.
- You might have been a procrastinator. You won’t be if you just get started today.
- You might have been selfish. You won’t be if you start doing something kind.
- You might have been too stubborn. You won’t be if you start to listen.
- You might have been lazy. You won’t be if you try.
- You might have been ignorant. You won’t be if you learn and grow.
You might have been a million different things that don’t serve you.
The truth is you’ll still be that person until you decide to change.
Your mission is simple — do a different thing.
You are what you do. Where you get to next is a direct result of what you do now.