“The loftier the building, the deeper must the foundation be laid.” – Thomas Kempis
I heard the whistle of an interesting train of thought while listening to a podcast the other day about the life of Michael Page, an Olympic-medal winning American equestrian. The interviewer asked Page which horseman had influenced his riding career most and he told an interesting story from his youth.
He had the opportunity to ride at the age of 20 with a now legendary German amateur rider named Dr. Reiner Klimke, who was 21 at the time and already on the German national team. Page was quite impressed with Klimke given his early success as a three-day event rider and even more in awe of him following a brief conversation they had about Klimke’s view on horsemanship.
Page recalls Klimke saying to him “All event [an equestrian “triathlon” event comprising dressage, cross-country and show jumping] riders are crazy.” This understandably caught Page’s attention, but what Klimke went on to say had and continues to have a significant impact on Page’s riding and teaching style.
Klimke explained (and I paraphrase): “I have read all the classic history of the theory of riding and I respect the masters who have come before us and I spent part of every day of my life reading and trying to understand the theory of riding. And the one thing I can be sure of is that the broader the foundation of going forward and straight the more likely it is that I will get to the pinnacle of where I aspire to go.”
Klimke focused on the basics, built a broad foundation of going forward and straight, and to Page’s awe, amazement and delight, Klimke went on to win six gold and 2 bronze medals in dressage at the Summer Olympics. This important principle – the broader the base, the higher the pyramid – applies in any and every situation.
If you aspire to go for the brass ring in some (or every!) part of your life, take care to build a firm and broad foundation. Don’t succumb to the temptation of reaching or grabbing for it before you have your foundation established. Even if it appears that you have won, a victory that is not built upon a firm foundation is a hollow victory. If, on the other hand, you take the time to establish a broad foundation and build progressive layers of experience upon it, you will enjoy a deep, fulfilling, repeatable and sustainable victory.