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Learning From: Harold Abrahams.


Following on from my post about Eric Liddel , I have been thinking about Harold Abrahams, the intense, Jewish sprinter from Chariots of Fire who was portrayed as being rather prickly, moody and haunted by his experience of discrimination. The Screenplay shows him desperate to win the 100 yard sprint  but obviously anxious that his dream would  be taken away from him by Eric Liddell. In fact Eric Liddell did  not run that event at the Paris Olympics and Abrahams achieved his dream. As I looked into the real story more I found a few lessons I could draw from Harold Abraham’s life:

1. Take your success and celebrate it.

I often wondered whether Abrahams was actually happy with his medal success or whether he always wondered whether he would have won if he had run against Liddell. Perhaps I am projecting on him my own bad habit of discounting successes. I find it all too easy to find reasons why my achievements really don’t count for much.

Its no big deal I got published, after all, publishers need material to make a profit.

Yes, Its fun that the Twelve by Twelve group quilts have been so popular but I think I’m probably the weak member of the group.

In fact Abrahams seems to have been pretty chuffed with his result. The 100 yard dash was run at 7 pm onJuly 7th 1924 and at that time and date every year until his death he dined with Arthur Poritt who took the bronze medal.

As a result of reading this I have decided that every time I reach a goal I am going to have a beauty treatment (something I love but find it hard to spend money on too often). Achievements should be celebrated!

2. Look at the whole picture before you get jealous

Whether I am rewatching Chariots of Fire, watching the London Olympics or looking with wonder at the web page of an admired art quilter, I often think, Oh, imagine the elation of wining gold  or Oh, I wish I was one of those quilters who always get into the big juried shows.   But its easy to forget that those people have lost / failed to get in as often, if not more than they win. What the film does not show is that Harold Abrahams also competed in the 1920 Antwerp Olympics in three events and did not do well at all.

3. He obtained advice and assistance

Abrahams was criticised for using the help of professional coach Sam Mussabini ( the subject of my next ‘Learning from Post’ due in the New Year).   However, he was wise enough to know that he didn’t know everything and when to ask for help.

4. He focused.

In 1920 he competed in 100 yard and 200 yard dash and the long jump. It was of course a huge success to get to the Olympics in three events. However, in order to achive his next definition of success, a medal, he dropped the long jump entirely and treated the 200 yards as a secondary event. Focusing down and making choices in my art was a vaulable lesson I learned from doing Lisa Call’s online class for  artists  Working in a Series.

5. He prioritised

The film shows Abrams with the singer who became his wife. In fact he did not meet her until much later. During his Olympic career he had been engaged to an accademic but he split with her to concentrate on his running. Success in any area means giving things up, whether it is small time-sucking activities like junk TV watching or large, worthy, but simply incompatible things. 

How are you going to start celebrating your succsses from now on? ( I have promised myself a massage or pedicure for each completed project on my goal list)

Are you distracted by trying to achieve in too many areas? Where could you benefit from focusing and prioritising?

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Gwyned Trefethen #

    One of the difficult things about becoming your own boss is the lack of “that a girl” positive feedback. This makes rewarding yourself for accomplishments both big and small important. I reward myself frequently, often by playing a computer game or two after hunkering down in the studio for a few hours or knocking of multiple items on my to do list, particularly ones I would prefer to avoid. For BIG accomplishments, such as completing all 52 weekly drawings in 52 weeks for my 2012 Visioning Project, I am treating myself to the SAQA Conference in Sante Fe.

    It is tempting to feel that I have to or want to do it all. Should I be writing articles, publishing a book, taking drawing lessons, teaching locally, seeking out gallery representation, developing work that is worthy of submitting to Quilt National or developing my surface design skills… There are so many wonderful, enticing and daunting directions to venture with my art quilting. Over the years I have developed a stronger resistance to jumping on to the latest whim or craze. I make a choice. I stick to it. Prioritizing and focusing is something that both comes naturally and that I work conscientiously on achieving. One way is by choosing to participate on this blog. The questions force me to assess and reassess my decisions and motivations. Thank you, Helen.

    December 7, 2012

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