Karoly Takacs lost his main shooting hand in a grenade explosion. A year later, after disappearing for months, he came back as a champion shooter with his left hand. But it took him another 9 years to win the gold medal. Here is his inspirational journey to the podium.
Karoly Takacs had already reached the status of the best pistol shooter in the world around the year 1936. Yet, he won the Olympic gold medal only 12 years later in 1948.
What took the shooter so long to bag the coveted gold medal? The story of Takacs and his journey to the podium is nothing short of inspiring.
How Karoly Takacs won the Olympic Gold
Karoly Takacs was part of the Hungarian army. By the year 1936, he was a renowned pistol shooter and considered the best already. But since he was only a sergeant and not a commissioned officer, Hungary denied him permission to participate in the Olympics.
However, the management lifted the rule soon after the event allowing Takacs to take part in the next Olympics. People vouched for Takacs as the favorite to win the gold in the 1940 Tokyo Olympics.
High on hopes and dreams, the marksman practiced relentlessly. In 1938, during his army training, a faulty grenade exploded, blowing away his hopes and dreams. The detonation did not kill him but injured his right hand to the extent that he could not use it ever again.
Takacs spent a month in the hospital, devastated not just for the loss of his right hand but also the opportunity to win Gold at the highest level of the sport.
A month after he left the hospital, he spent a lot of time alone and maintained a low key profile. In the spring of 1939, the Hungarian National Pistol Championship took place. When the other shooters saw that Karoly Takacs had arrived, they consoled him for his loss and mentioned they were happy to see him show up to view the event.
To everyone’s surprise, Takacs said he was there not to spectate but participate.
When the event began, everyone expected Takacs to make a feeble attempt to pull the trigger with his right hand so that he could quench his emotional thirst for shooting again.
But when it was Takacs’ turn, the man picked up the pistol with his left hand. He fired shot after shot with his non-dominant hand as the audience watched with their jaw dropped open. And what was shocking was every shot hit the bullseye. Takacs came out as the winner of the event.
After his time at the hospital, Takacs had practiced in private. He thought, “Why should I worry about the right hand I do not have. Let me see what I can do with the left hand I have.” That was it. The learning took some practice but a few months of dedicated effort later, he was back in the game.
But his dream of winning the Olympic gold was again shattered. This time because the Olympic Committee canceled the Olympics of 1940 due to the World War. Takacs, though disappointed kept hanging on. He waited for four long years hoping to fulfill his incomplete dream in 1944.
Unfortunately, the Olympics of 1944 had to be canceled too due to the continued war. But Takacs was not a man who would hang up his shoes.
By 1948, Takacs was 38. In the Summer Olympics held in the same year in London, he was no longer considered the favorite to win the event.
Before the event, the reigning world champion asked Takacs what was he there for. Takacs said he was there to learn. To everyone’s surprise, Takacs went on not only to bag the Gold medal but also set the world record in the rapid-fire pistol event.
His moment of glory had arrived. His years of wait was finally over when he finally stepped on to the podium. He proudly bent down to allow a gold medal to be put around his neck.
The previous champion congratulated Takacs by jokingly saying he had learned enough. Takacs went on to win the Gold medal in the same event in the 1952 Olympics too. His neverending effort for the piece of metal earned him a place in the Olympics Heroes list of the International Olympic Committee.
Karoly Takacs ended his career as the legend who never gave up.
Lessons to learn from the story of Karoly Takacs’
A story considered as an inspiration has many learning elements within it. Considering a story as an inspiration and doing nothing to improve yourself serves no purpose.
We can all learn from some of the many takeaways from this story of Takacs.
1. Stop blaming circumstances
Most people in Takacs’ shoes after the grenade explosion would have complained. Some would blame the Government, few others would abuse the grenade manufacturer and a bunch of people would curse their hard luck.
Only the ones with tough mental grit can put a serious event behind, start with the other hand and reach the world-class level again. Most shooters would have not even bothered trying with the left hand. But not Takacs. He blamed nothing, went back to practice and came back strong.
Things go wrong with every single person. When they do, you have a choice to blame it on the circumstances or you can choose to see what you can improve.
Every time things go wrong, you will find some excuse if you want to. Blaming circumstances is the easiest way to hide our own mistakes under the rug or lying the comfort zone.
The visual below explains how results and comfort zone are related. If you choose to stretch yourself you can attain fantastic results for yourself. If you choose to blame things for your lack of achievements, you will remain within the comfort zone forever.
The sooner you stop blaming circumstances, the faster you will improve.
2. Try with whatever you have
You might curse the Government for the bad economy, the society for unclean streets and your employer for a poor hike. But you forget to do better with what you have. Takacs did the best with what he had. He operated purely within his circle of control.
Stop worrying about what the rest of the world does or does not do for you. Do not expect somebody else to help you achieve success in life. You are your own master and you are a superpower. Focus on what you have and improve yourself.
You and I have things we have control over and things completely beyond our ability to change and influence. The areas which we can influence is said to fall within our locus of control. People grow anxious and stressed about the things out of their control.
For example, when rain causes a traffic jam causing you to be late, you have no control to change anything. When the Government changes the tax structure to impact your earnings, you can do little about it. If a natural calamity creates a furor on the news, you are only damaging your mood by thinking about it.
When you worry about the blue circle, which are things outside your control, you gain nothing. You only lose the opportunity to utilize the time to operate within the orange circle.
The orange circle contains those aspects of your life which you can change. They are also the areas which matter to you more. Spend most of your time on those areas.
Think about it. What matter more to you more in the long run? The thought of a shark attack that happened on another coast miles away or improving your health by making time for exercise?
Great things happen to those who don’t stop believing, trying, learning, and being grateful.Roy T. Bennett
3. Your body does what your mind believes
As explained in the shark bait story, your mind, not your body, instills many of the barriers towards your goals. If your mind believes it cannot, your body does not even try.
Whether you think you can or you cannot, you’re right.Henry Ford
When Takacs was injured, he could have believed that winning the championship again was impossible. If he did, his left hand would remain weak as before, all his life. But Takacs believed the opposite. He challenged himself that he has the ability to be the best even with his left hand. His mind believed and his body followed.
Do not limit yourself by the boundaries set by the society, organizations or the mediocre world around you. People are eager to tell you that dreaming big is unrealistic. But only if you dream big will you take action to reach that goal.
What you believe can also have dire negative consequences. Viktor Frankl, the survivor of 4 concentration camps, speaks about hope. He noticed that a lot of people lost their lives after Christmas.
The reason behind the death was their mind. People hoped they would be home by Christmas. When the dream was shattered, they lost their will to live anymore. Though it appeared that the body gave up to the torture it was actually the mind that refused to carry on.
4. Winners refuse to give up
You might begin a challenge with a lot of enthusiasm, but do you persist when you do not see results? Most people give up, thinking it is too much of an effort.
When the Olympics of 1940 were called off, Takacs could have said, “four years is too long to wait”. When the 1944 Olympics was canceled too, most people would have surrendered. But Takacs kept waiting for his victory until he got it. He never budged and kept his eyes always on his target.
It is not about how hard you can hit but how much can you get hit and keep moving forward.Rocky Balboa
Many of the success stories stem from the relentless will of someone who never gave up. Such people always generate their energy to persist because they enjoy the journey. Since results can take a long time to arrive, expecting results to pump in the motivation required can work against your favor.
If Karoly Takacs expected to win some championship just after starting shooting with the left hand, he would have ended up with disappointment. He kept practicing because he loved the experience of shooting. Right hand or left, he could not imagine his life to be devoid of shooting.
If you choose a goal that you enjoy working towards, the result will follow sooner or later.
5. Refusing to say I can’t
Karoly Takacs practiced in private because he did not want the world to offer him condolences. He already believed he was capable of getting back to the level of world-class. He did not want the kind words of his good wishers deterring him from his belief.
Had he met his acquaintances, chances are they would convince him that he is chasing an impossible dream. Maybe, just maybe, the pessimistic words would dampen his enthusiasm to chase the Olympic gold with his left hand.
But Karoly Takacs refused to say I can’t and stayed away from people who would tell him so.
When you believe you can achieve a goal, make it easy for yourself to chase it. Mingle with people who chase massive goals. Stay away from negative people who convince you that dreaming big is only for the extra-ordinary.
Most people choose to stay in their comfort zone, give up before they even start and live a life of mediocrity. The successful people keep trying again and again without saying “I can’t”, and hit a gold mine sooner or later.
When life pins you down, do not succumb to the tap out. Push yourself, kick your way back, get up on your feet and fight back.
It takes some immense mettle and effort to win Olympic gold with your non-dominant hand. Takacs made history by doing what nobody else had done before. He managed to achieve his goals only because of his belief in himself. He is considered an Olympic hero for a reason.
Remember the inspirational story of Karoly Takacs when you face an uphill battle.
The level of success you achieve in life is directly proportional to the size of your dreams. If you dream big, you will win big. You if you dream mediocre you will not even achieve that.
Think big, dream big, achieve big.
Maxim Dsouza has spent over a decade experimenting and finding various time management techniques to improve his productivity. He strongly understands the fact that time is a limited commodity and tries to make every second count. He has extensive experience in leadership in startups, small businesses, and large corporations.
He has helped people of different professions and age groups gain clarity on their goals, improve focus, revise their time management skills and develop an awareness of their psychological cognitive biases.