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June 26, 2012

Attitude and performance – Cause and effect, but which one's the cause?

I was chatting with a colleague about his recent cycle event, the 206 km dragon ride in Wales, and found the challenge to be quite intriguing. Stamina, an essential ingredient for avid cyclists, constitutes only one portion of the broader term performance (at least in the sporting context and specifically in the context of cycling). As the iPhone Dictionary app states, performance is the efficiency with which something fulfils its intended purpose.

So how do we assess this efficiency? Here are two sporting examples.

Andre Agassi, in his autobiography Open, is adamant about the fact that he hated playing tennis. One could say that he had the wrong attitude but did that affect his performance? I'm sure many will regard him as one of the greatest and most prominent players of all time (and that's not only due to his legendary denim shorts). His performance was great, but he often doubted his ability and resented his profession.

  • Does this present the wrong attitude?
  • Does the wrong attitude give him enough doubt to give him the edge?
  • Was the edge enough to make him a great performer?

Maybe it was the attitude of his father, who created a good habit in his son, that led Agassi to become one of the world's greats.

Lance Armstrong performed. In fact, be excelled in the world of international cycling. At age 25 he was diagnosed with stage three testicular cancer. By then he was already a seasoned cyclist, a champion. He had learnt to win, to overcome challenges. I assume that his early success would have added to his winning mentality. It would have contributed to his attitude. In the battle with cancer, it took about three years of treatment until it went into complete remission - a period of time that can make or break a sporting career.

  • Did he give up? No, he went on to win several stages of the tour de France and claim his place as one of the greatest competition cyclists that has ever put foot to pedal.

In Armstrong's case, performance drove attitude which drove performance.

So is there an easy way to answer this? Does attitude drive performance or does performance drive attitude, or is it a closed loop we can only try to improve with each revolution?

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