Book review entries

June 02, 2005

Slaying the Dragon

5 out of 5 stars

This is a book I first came across in Texas last summer. With a foreword by none other than Muhammad Ali, it's an inspirational autobiography and a very very good read.

For those of you that don't know or can't remember, Michael Johnson was a world class sprinter (I think he's a world class business man now!) Who ran in the 200 and 400m sprints in the Atlanta Olympic Games of 1996. He broke his own world record in the 200m final by one of the largest margins in history – almost a third of a second and got the Gold for the 400m as well.

Here is an extract from the introduction. The book seems to be out of print now so I got mine for the princely sum of $4. Check the link above.

"To me, that is the ultimate responsibility and challenge of being a role model – not to sign autographs in a timely fashion or to live a stainless life, but to offer up a life or a philosophy, flaws and all, to help other people negotiate their own way. That's what I hope to do in this book.

So I have not set out to write about how you can be an Olympic champion or how you can break world records. Those are rarely attainable goals and, honestly, there are more worthy ones for most people. Especially in the beginning. My main goal ten years ago was to go to college. Yet the Atlanta Olympics would never have happened for me without that first goal. It is the same with you. You'll never know how far you can go until you shave off that first hundredth of a second, until you run ceaselessly toward the edge.

And so this is a book about how to identify what you really want and how to get there; to set goals based upon realism and confidence; to work with discipline and resolve; to learn from the requisite failures and the too-early successes; to achieve a cliarty of focus and a sense of purpose; to stick to your plan; to deal with pressure, thrive on it, and make it your own; to carve away the distractions that slow us all down; and, perhaps most important, to keep going after you lose the biggest race of your life. Because you will. I did several times.

I will show you what I did after each of those terrible losses: how to retool your machine, regain your focus, and find another biggest race. And another. And another.

Finally, I will show you what I have only now realised: Even in the best race there will always be a slight stumble, a shudder, a hitch, always room for a hundredth of a second improvement. That is the great thing about being a human being. You can always go just a little bit faster.

I wish I could teach you how to achieve perfection, how to slay the dragon every time. Instead, I hope to show you something far more valuable: how to chase it.

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