Find Your Why


by Jason Rogers

Why are you doing this?

Finding clarity on what you want to achieve and the underlying reason why is the single most important thing you must do.

It’s been widely studied and reported that mastery of a skill takes at least 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. If you are going to spend even a fraction of that time putting in the work in fencing, you need to understand clearly why it matters to you.

It is that reason that keeps you going when there are bumps in the road.

“You have to keep in mind that there are greater things that you’re working towards and there are going to be tough times along the way. The difference between champions and other people is the fact that they don’t give up when it gets hard and they understand what they are fighting for.”
- Mariel Zagunis
Three-time Olympic medalist and Two-time champion in women’s saber
“I found that the most successful college athletes are the ones that just love the sport. If someone doesn't love the sport and know why they are doing it, it can be very difficult for them when they're in college...Two years ago, one of the things that we stressed within our team was, What's your ‘why?’  Everybody does it for different reasons. Some people love winning, and although it can hurt them if they're losing, at least that's why they get up in the morning. For others, their "why" is that they enjoy the game or the physicality of it. If it's because your parents are pushing you, you're not going to last. You'll quit.”
- Michael Aufrichtig
Two-time NCAA National Championship titles as Head Coach of Columbia Lions Fencing Team

This handy chart (thanks Simon Sinek) helps get this idea across really simply. We all know WHAT we are doing. And we spend a lot of time thinking about HOW to achieve it. But we don’t often think about WHY.

Find Your Why In Fencing Diagram

It’s the WHY that gets you up in the morning. It’s the WHY that keeps you going when you struggle. It’s the WHY that can unlock the best fencer within you.

My own personal reason was that I loved the feeling that came from making small improvements every day. There was something magical to me about seeing seeing my skills directly improve as I practiced them.

Of course I loved other elements of fencing as well such as my fencing friends and travelling to new places, but this was the primary driver for me to spend hours (often alone) at practice working on my skills and competing with, first and foremost, with myself.

You will notice that competition is notably left off on that list. I always had a love / hate relationship with competing. Competing was extremely important to understand how much I was improving and to qualify for the opportunities that are necessary to progress, such as the junior national, senior national and Olympic teams. But it also brings a great deal of pressure which can be difficult to manage. We'll talk more about how other fencers have dealt with the same issue in future articles, but it's worth noting that when that pressure starts to mount, having a very clear vision of why you're doing this can keep you going.

What's your why?


*Header Image Photo courtesy of Serge Timacheff / FIE