In 1981 in “Introduction to Organic Chemistry,” I found myself sitting next to five-time Olympic Speed Skating Champion and U.S. Pro Cycling Champion, Eric Heiden.
To this day, people ask me what it was like and I remember that Eric was on the cover of Time Magazine, Life Magazine and Sports Illustrated only one year before and the coincidence of my interest in athletic peak performance and my newfound friend, one of the greatest athletes of all time, seemed too uncanny. As Sigmund Freud had once said, “In life there are no accidents.”
Eric Arthur Heiden, Five-time Olympic Gold Medalist
Personal statement for medical school entrance
Stanford University, 1984
“Throughout much of my life I have been considered a very goal-oriented person. Much of the success I have had has been the result of some dreaming, lots of planning, plenty of hard work and sweat, and a great deal of focus, dedication and concentration.
At age 14 I set my sites on becoming an Olympic speed skater and that goal took me three years to realize. Next I decided to become a world champion at the sport and that too I realized, but I continued to push on. Even today people ask me what kept me motivated when it appeared that I had reached a pinnacle in excellence. Speed skating is a sport that is decided by a stopwatch, not according to the judgment of your peers. Because of this I was able to continue to strive for personal excellence by setting new personal and world records. I enjoyed the challenge of pushing myself to new personal limits by skating faster than ever before.
From my experience in speed skating, and other experiences, I have found myself to be a person who does not necessarily use the praise of others as the fuel for the pursuit of a goal. Instead, it is the hard work and the desire to discover my limitations that drives me toward realizing my dreams.
I have been able to incorporate this philosophy into many other endeavors, which include professional cycling, education, and sports commentating. Although I have always not been as successful at some things as with skating, I still find tremendous satisfaction in knowing that I have given 100% in pursuing a goal. By giving 100% no one, including yourself, can ever be considered a failure. By giving your all you understand your limits and you have grown in self-knowledge. By using this philosophy, and focusing my concentration and efforts, I know I can fulfill another long-standing dream. It is a goal that I have and that will continue to be intellectually stimulating and challenging. This long-standing goal is to become a physician.”
Eric Heiden, 1984