Dad was a young man when he fought in WWII. Although he didn’t talk much about his experiences when I was growing up, I do remember him telling me about one of his early encounters of the horrors of war. After his first battle, he witnessed a wagon filled with dead bodies being pulled through a village where his battalion was then recovering. But the most shocking thing, was that he recognized two of the bodies on top—they were two of his buddies.
At that point, what went through his mind? Did he begin to form a plan to survive? Did he experience the hopelessness of war? Did he believe in the Allied cause? Did he ever think about the young men like himself he was trying to kill? Did he want to live? Did he believe he could survive? What thoughts filled his brain as he went about the business of war?
I’ll never know much of what he was thinking, but he did share one idea with my brother and sister. What he told them decades later when he began to talk a little about the war, was that for him, WWII got a lot easier when he realized he wasn’t coming home.
What did he mean? What’s the lesson here? Because I know he wanted to survive more than anything in the world. He had his whole life ahead of him. He wanted to meet the woman of his dreams, to have children, to play baseball. He wanted to raise a family, to finish college, to start a career. He wanted to see his mom again. He had so much for which to live.
When he told my brother and sister this experience from WWII, he wanted them to apply this lesson as athletes. What he realized was that there’s a lot of pressure when you focus intently on the result you want. The more you want that result, the more intense the pressure. The more intense the pressure, the more the result becomes stifled, and the less likely you will be able to create that outcome. He wanted my brother, sisters, and myself to understand that the more we focused on winning ski races, or beating a certain competitor, or qualifying for a particular team, or racing to lower our points, or winning an Olympic gold medal, the less likely we would be able to do what we so much desired. He wanted us to concentrate on the skills. Only then would the results take care of themselves.