Playing for your county is a wonderful privilege. It’s also a huge test of skill, stamina, determination.
Waiting on the side-line for your first game in the county jersey, replacing one of the household names, with your team being one point behind, could do one of two things; immobilise you with fear, or inspire you to heights you never imagined.
A now retired county hurler recalled recently to me how this had been his exact experience.
As he stood waiting to be called on to the field, he remembered what his dad had told him, “This is what you’re here for.” He kept repeating the statement to himself, first mentally, then out loud.
By the time he was whistled onto the pitch and was running out to meet his marker, he had realised the thought, the aim, and his feelings, to an emotional Inferno.
His marker, a seasoned campaigner, found himself confronted by a tornado of energy, skill, speed and determination that threw him off his game and resulted in a dream debut for my acquaintance, and the first choice for his position in every county game for many following seasons.
“It was the self talk”, he said. “I had talked myself into a whirlwind before I’d even set foot in the pitch.”
“And saying it out loud”, he continued “was what instilled the belief, and brought it into reality.”
“I did it ever after, for every game I played, for club and for county, and for every event which I faced thereafter in my business.“
This man’s interesting and candid story reflected the importance of real belief, not just an intellectually understood proposition , but a real, heartfelt, soulful, emotional, belief.
What was worth noting too was that the principle was not confined to hurling, but to business, and to his life.
That’s the kind of belief that lengthens your stride, adds an inch to your reach, and draws on unimagined strength. It resurrects courage in the business world.
It gets you through those dark and lonely moments in the early hours, when problems can magnify out of proportion to their real significance.
It cements resolve in the face of doubt.
It holds fast when ties can otherwise weaken.
As Rudyard Kipling put it;
"If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew,
To serve you one more turn, long after they are gone,
And so, hold on, when there is nothing in you,
Except the will, that says to them, 'Hold on!"
The interesting fact about this little story is that when it was first mentioned to him to speak to himself in measured, selected, forceful, and precise language, he had dismissed it as nonsense.
But he had faith in the person who suggested it to him. Because of that, he said he would give it a shot.
He says he still doesn’t understand how it works.
Even now it seems that bit nonsensical to him.
But he sees the effects of it are undeniable.
So he holds his counsel on it, and fondly refers to it as his little bit of “magical nonsense.”
With one All-star, two club medals, an Interprovincial medal, and an All-Ireland medal, his sideboard is a colourful testimony to the power of that little bit of magical nonsense.
How do YOU talk to yourself?
Or do you think you don't?
You may not go through a verbalised articulated sentence. But the notions, the ideas, the thoughts, thoughts that can sink you or save you, flit through your mind whenever you face a task of any substance.
Watch for them.
Some may try to lodge as they pass through.
Take the ones that are useful, that could, or might, be of use.
Keep your mind open.
Some may appear 'nonsensical' at first sight, but that may just because you've never considered them before.
Keep the mind receptive.
Examine the thoughts, the ideas, and if they seem good, helpful, then articulate them into sentences.
Sound them out in your mind and out loud, and if you're experiencing a positive response, go with them.