I recently watched a re-run of Kerri Strug’s vault finals in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. It was again amazing. Her role in that particular event would determine whether the U.S. Women’s Team would win its first gold medal in the all-around competition. Her first vault attempt was horrific. She had a poor landing, fell, and tore two ankle ligaments. The team was in trouble and the 17-year-old Strug was in pain. The team, and the watching world, waited to see if she could even venture her final attempt. She limped to the performance platform. Her stance was weak and feeble, but the close up on her face was one of remarkable concentration. She took a deep breath and began her sprint toward the vault with remarkable background silence in the arena. Kerri Strug nailed a perfect landing. The crowd roared with excited disbelief. She fought back the pain to salute the judges, hopped off the mat, and collpased to her knees. The U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team took the gold medal.

Revisiting that experience reminded me of a psychological phenomenon I’ve seen recur in my life. An individual can achieve great things when the channeling of emotional energy becomes directed, focused, and productively applied. The most impressive people I’ve encountered demonstrate a sensitivity to emotional energy. They harness it and direct it across productive applications, as if such doing is the only possible outlet. More often, emotional energy is directed aimlessly and thoughtlessly. This is one of the major differences I’ve noticed between man at his greatest moments, and man across his average course of being.

This skill involves more than strength of focus and concentration. It is rooted in the channeling process – the creation of productive outcomes from an influx bolus of energy. An individual’s productivity and outcome measures are often assessed within the context of occupation . These considerations together, lend even greater credence to the adage stating “It’s important to do what you love.”

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