Issue 48 | March 15, 2013 | Featuring Antonio Castro
Most successful people would say that they love what they do. My question is, do they love it because they are good at it? Or are they good at it because they love it? Our featured student, Antonio Castro, a gymnast from Miami who is headed to the University of Nebraska on an athletic scholarship, might shed some light on the dynamics between passion and achievement.
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A free online course which started February 25, 2013 may still be open to registrations: "American Heritage - From Colonial Settlement to the Reagan Revolution" offers an in-depth look at American history. Topics include the development of the idea of natural rights during the late colonial period; the American Revolution and the framing of the Constitution; the crisis of the Union and the Civil War; the rise of the U.S. as a great power; the successes of Progressivism and the conservative reaction signaled by the election of Ronald Reagan. Taught by Hillsdale College faculty, this course incorporates readings drawn from American Heritage: A Reader. Registration for this course can be done by going to online.hillsdale.edu.
FEATURED THIS WEEK:
We've seen the pattern in the lives of other high-performing youths: #1 discovery of aptitude, #2 focus of training underscored by hard work, #3 remarkable accomplishment. Not surprisingly, all of the accomplished students interviewed have sacrificed a traditional classroom style of education to gain time for focused training. For Antonio, homeschooling began in the 7th grade. Since he was a late-comer to the field of gymnastics, he had some catching up to do. But once he found his niche, it was full steam ahead for him. Let's back up and read how Antonio discovered his athletic skills in the first place.
"I always aim to be the best at whatever I do. When I was in baseball, I wanted to be in the major leagues, when I was in football I wanted to be in the NFL. Unfortunately, I was terrible at both so that was never going to happen. At the time, both my sisters excelled in their respective sports, but I was having trouble finding mine. I tried soccer, swimming, karate and countless others, but it seemed like I could never find the right activity for myself. While playing soccer, I would just break away from the game and lay in the grass, baking in the hot sun. While swimming, I would just spend my time flipping into the pool, and in karate, I simply performed cartwheels and back handsprings around my opponent. My mother seemed to understand the pattern at the time, and wisely put me into gymnastics. Instantly the sport grew on me, and I knew that gymnastics would be "my endeavor."
Once the passion was discovered, Antonio did what other successful individuals do, he adjusted his lifestyle in order to gain time for training.
"The repetition and discipline required to learn the most basic gymnastics skills at first was daunting. I loved to feel the freedom of jumping up into the air, over and over, twisting my body into contortion-like poses then landing on my feet again. During the first two weeks of my recreational classes, I decided to commit myself to gymnastics. By the end of competition season, I joined the team, and by the next season, I was ready to compete. Our team won the first seven places at every event. Out of those seven boys, I placed fifth almost every time. Year after year, I moved up in my group until I was number one.
"For a variety of reasons, my teammates began to quit the sport one by one. Today I am the only one left from my group of seven. In that group I was not the most talented, but I was the one who worked the hardest and devoted the most time to the sport. Perseverance and passion are the only reasons I am still involved. I am proud of my drive to succeed in whatever I do, be it gymnastics or school work. When I begin something, I give it all I have no matter what; that is a huge part of who I am. Determination to achieve my goal makes me do things others would not, and these choices have made me the person I am."
Antonio has discovered a level of determination that will have wonderful application for other areas in his life. This is not just about winning gymnastic competitions. Once someone has learned to dig deep for that soul-strength, success begins to sprout in other places as well.
"My will to succeed carries on through whatever I do; I aspire to be a great
engineer one day. My dad has watched shows about machines and their design processes since I was little. My love for engineering evolved as we observed and discussed the neat technology. Through art classes and drawing, I discovered that I enjoy using my imagination and creativity to design things. These pursuits helped me understand the importance of finding a passion. I truly believe you have to love something in order to really be good at it. My family has never put pressure on me to be the best; my drive has always come from inside. This drive makes me work even when I am told not to. I know the desire to succeed and the ability to push myself to be better are the two main components to being successful in life and in my academic career. "
"For almost a generation, psychologists around the world have been engaged in a spirited debate over a question that most of us would consider to have been settled years ago. The question is this: is there such a thing as innate talent? The obvious answer is yes. Not every hockey player born in January ends up playing at the professional level. Only some do - the innately talented ones. Achievement is talent plus preparation. The problem with this view is that the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger role preparation seems to play."