Life & Style

Focus is a Muscle by Connor O’Leary at TEDxUIUC (Full Transcript)

So if I’m on this climb with 10 kilometers to go, I’m thinking of the challenge or in this case the climb, in the smallest increments possible. I focus on 30 seconds, I tell myself OK, Connor, you can do anything for 30 seconds. And then I tell myself that same thing 30 seconds later. And I do this again and again and again until ultimately I’m at the top of that climb.

I’ve learned through cycling that our minds really do tend to give up before our bodies. And focus is about being able to tell ourselves the story, whatever story that may be. Now like I said, I was ultimately able to get back on the bike, really start training and get back to the top of the sport. And I didn’t know it at the time but I had one more big race ahead of me. Now anybody who knows me knows that I love traveling and I love exploring. And so when I heard that CBS was accepting applications for the Amazing Race, I knew there was no question I had to apply. So I grabbed my dad, we went into the garage and we shot this quick five-minute application video. And then before I knew it, less than six months later there we are: land upon the start line, ready to go, 10 other teams on a race around the world.

Now anybody who’s seen the race or has watched a few episodes knows that you have to read the clue. The entire clue. Those that don’t usually get eliminated quickly. So there my dad and I are. We’re on the second leg, somehow we are in the lead and we’re in Bora Bora. So we ribbed that clue open and we take off, headed to dive for pearls. So we get to the dive location and we realize we don’t have our dive bags, which we needed for the dive challenge. We hadn’t read the entire clue and we hadn’t followed the rule that we set for ourselves before the race even began, which was to read the clue slowly, thoroughly and focus on what the clue actually said. But instead of letting ourselves get distracted by our huge stupid mistake, we knew we had to refocus and get back on track immediately. So that’s exactly what we did.

You have to be able to adapt on the Amazing Race. There are so many variables that can really hinder your ability to focus, just like everyday life. In this case you have a camera in your face, you’re very sleep deprived, you’re in who knows where and you’re racing for a million dollars. So like I said you have to be able to adapt. But focus isn’t just about being singular in mind. Like I said, it’s about adaptability. And if you’ve learned how to focus, when you need to change directions in your life, you will do so much easier and quicker if you strengthen this mental muscle.

Now even though you may never be a professional cyclist and I hope that you never have to go through cancer and I really wish that you could all go on The Amazing Race. But even if that doesn’t happen for you, whatever you decide to do in your life you will do it better because you’ve learned how to focus and you never know it might just save you one day.

Thank you.


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By Pangambam S

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