After a successful three years as “The Dr”, Dr. Who star Matt Smith has recently found himself back in the spotlight. He’s currently starring as Prince Philip in ‘The Crown’, on Netflix. As a result he was invited onto the BBC podcast ‘Desert Island Discs’. On this show, Matt discussed his previous life as a semi-professional footballer on a clear path to make the pro leagues. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for us) an injury meant he had to give up sport and stumbled into acting instead. Of the transition, Matt said “there are great disciplines from being a sportsman that you can transfer into being an artist. The preparation, the sacrifice, the constant desire to improve”…“There’s a touch of Eric Cantona in every actor I believe”.
Whilst this career change is only available for a select few there’s a lesson for everyone in Smith’s observation on process. We live in a society which loves to celebrate talent and decorate people for their ‘natural ability’. This can lead you into thinking that if you weren’t blessed with superior skills aged 10, then unfortunately you will never be exceptional. You may learn the basics but you’ll never be one of the best. Whilst it would be naive to deny some people take more naturally to certain things than others this shouldn’t be used as a valid reason to accept conditions of your life. Nor the level you’ve reached in a field, if secretly you wish to go further. Talent is easier to see from the outside because it’s the only bit we’re shown; the end product. However, as David Beckham’s father said of his son’s success: “it happens when a young man gives up each spare minute to the pursuit of excellence”.
Double Olympic Gold medalist, Dame Kelly Holmes, has seen success in public speaking and business ventures after retiring from full-time athletics. She explains: “As in athletics, in business, there’s this underlying acceptance that you have to dedicate your life to the pursuit of excellence. Planning, tracking, monitoring, adjusting, succeeding – and failing – are all part of your journey… Knowing what is gold is to you, sets the visions for you to follow”.
It would be difficult to talk about successfully transitioning from sport without mentioning two of America’s most famous hard workers: The Rock and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Rock first became a household name as a wrestler but has managed to make a successful transition into being a respected actor and presenter. He caricatured his own work ethic through the creation of ‘The Rock Clock’. An app which wakes its users up at “Rock Time”… 4:15am if you were wondering. Arnold Scwarzenegger had a similar path, from decorated bodybuilder to actor. In recent years though, he’s added politician to that list becoming the Governor of California. So whilst fitness may not be your thing, the work ethic of athletes might be.
“Now, as I began to clip off one brisk six-minute mile after another, as the rising sun set fire to the lowest needles of the pines, I asked myself: What if there were a way, without being an athlete, to feel what athlete’s feel? To play all the time, instead of working? or else to enjoy work so much that it becomes essentially the same thing.” – Phil Knight, ‘Shoe Dog; A Memoir by the Creator of Nike’