Chapter 3. Experiencing Excellence

  • My challenge: Finding my place in the world as a teenager
  • My choice: finding niches, where my friends and I excelled, e.g., rollerblading, table tennis, and not doing drugs or smoke.
  • Vulnerability side of the story: These are not the coolest teen activities. That did not get us to hang out with the cool kids and did not accelerate me losing my virginity.

I am 16. I am in Paris with my crew. It is a hot summer. I am sweating. Not because of the temperature but because of the adrenaline going through my veins. I am on my roller skates. I am doing 30mph. I am on the main road next to Le Louvre. There are cars on my left. Why am I going that fast? Well, I grabbed the back of a bus going about 30mph. No big deal. Although I did not do it often because of the risk of being arrested by the police, I am focused and confident. Even when I need to let go of the bus, I am still doing 30mph. I am approaching the busy intersection fast. Ok, now I am stressing. I stop everything is ok. I don’t, I crash into a car, I fall, the cars to my left may run me over. This is the first time I am in this situation (and the last). Somehow, I slide sideways and stop right where I needed to be. Same for my friends.

What is crazier, that I got in that situation or that I could do something exceptional for the first time in a super high-stakes situation? Would you still find it crazy if I told you that I have been roller skating since 6? Everywhere my crew and I would go, it would be on skates. We would look for the steepest hills we could find. I even roller skate down a mountain one. Heck, I would go down even on grass. I could feel a slight change in how hard the surface I was riding was. I built my own roller skates. I chose the shoes, bearing, etc… I had an intimate knowledge and trust in my equipment and my skills. So much that I could do a lot more than what I imagined. I was not crazy, my excellence on roller skates was just next level, and I knew it.

This is one of the first times I experienced that level of confidence, that feeling of invincibility. I love the feeling that the sky was the limit. That I could do things, people could not even start imagining, even less consider trying.

In business, this is one of the most important traits someone needs to show. You want to lead? You need to think big, you need to inspire others, you need to be brave. Much easier when you are uber-confident.

The 2nd time I experienced excellence, was playing table tennis. My best friend owned a table. And other than roller skating, we did not have much more to do than playing table tennis in the parking lot. And When I say playing, I mean PLAYING! It was common for us to play 5 hours straight, almost every single day of vacations. They say you reach mastery when you spend 10,000 hours doing 1 thing. When you go at something 5 hours by 5 hours, you get close to mastery fast! That showed when we competed against the champions of the county. Goes without saying that they lost against us. Even if our training was not structured, we had a lot of training! Moreover, we played at home, outside, in the parking garage. We knew how to manage the wind, the distraction of people passing by. They did not stand a chance. Fast forward a few years, we challenged another champion. That time we did not stand a chance! The difference? The equipment. He had a racquet that cost 25 times the price of the best one we could “creatively” acquire ;). At that time, I should have learned a lesson. It is not only about how good you are, but it is also about the equipment you can pay for.