Category Archives: Competition

Lessons From My Brother; Similarities Between World Class Runners and Interpreters

Galen Rupp, Alberto Salazar, Mo Farah

The Summer Olympics were quite a show. They were especially exciting for our family as my brother, Alberto Salazar, made a splash when the coaching of his two runner protégés, Mo Farah and Galen Rupp, paid off, the former winning gold in both the 10K and the 5K and the latter silver in the 10K.  Their hard-earned triumph caused me to reflect on how the parallels between the training for the two endeavors theoretically dovetail to a remarkable degree.

Following Your Natural Aptitudes

If you want to be good at what you do, by default you should choose to engage in something that comes easily to avoid rowing against the current. If you stand out as a sprinter you will focus on shorter running events rather than long distance races.  As an interpreter, you may decide between becoming a specialist in legal terminology and working for the courts, becoming a medical interpreter, or switching gears every day interpreting at conferences on different subjects, depending on your intellectual predilections.

Selecting the Best Coach

Once you have made a choice, find the best coach you can in the area of expertise identified.  You may have to work with that person for a while to ensure that he is the right individual to mentor you.  Assuming that you click and your preferences are aligned, apply yourself and learn as much as you can.  Remember the axiom, “no pain, no gain”, but do not be afraid to switch if you are stagnating.

Simulation of the Optimal  Environment

My brother runs the “Oregon Project” for Nike which seeks to physically emulate the conditions in which top long-distance runners outside of the U.S. live, concentrating on factors such as climate, high altitude, oxygen levels, etc.  Alberto’s runners live in that replicated environment. Likewise, interpreters-in-training must immerse themselves to the extent possible, in the type of settings where they plan to work so that they have a realistic outlook of what it takes to achieve the skills needed to succeed.  This can be accomplished by shadowing other interpreters, going to court, medical settings or interning for a company that will allow you to attend conferences in some capacity as part of your training.

Practice; Where the Tire Hits the Road

There’s no cutting corners here.  This is what will determine your success or lack thereof and there are several components to it. You must be steadfast in your exercises.  You cannot expect to have satisfactory results from half-hearted attempts.  You must set aside the time to train and make sure you are employing the right techniques.  Watching replays is key both in the sports world as well as in the interpreting world. Thankfully, technology has advanced to a level where we can monitor the output of excellent interpreters through the internet and pick up invaluable pointers. It is also important to have the right mental attitude despite lulls in your enthusiasm, to do visualization as all athletes do, to use the right gear and have the right nutrition.  For interpreters, this is analogous to using the right equipment, be it dedicated glossaries, dictionaries, computers or simultaneous interpreting paraphernalia.  Otherwise, you are working at a disadvantage in comparison to colleagues that aim to be at the  top of their game.

A Man Is Known By the Company He Keeps

If you wish to improve in your chosen career, lift your spirits, and remain on track, associate with positive, like-minded people who enjoy what you do.  For the athlete as well as the interpreter, this means spending time with committed individuals that will support your goals be it through professional running clubs or interpreting associations that strive to develop the interests of their members through a forum that will benefit the collective in an efficient way that is difficult to attain individually.

Don’t Rest on Your Laurels

Lastly, never become complacent.  Always be on the lookout to see how you might expand your skill set and help others. I am inspired by my sibling who won three consecutive New York Marathons and a Boston Marathon in the 1980s .  The Rookie, as he was called, predicted and set a world record in the marathon in 1981.  He followed that up, fourteen years later, with a win at the Comrades Ultramarathon (56 miles) in South Africa. Presently he devotes himself to sharing his accumulated expertise with today’s up and coming athletes, leading them to victory.

As interpreters, we have many options available to follow suit, from improving our own competence, to providing support and assistance to those colleagues interested in our help.  Pitch in and become involved, there’s a lot to be said for giving vs. receiving!


On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!

Competition, as we know it in the interpreting profession, is broadly defined by Merriam-Webster as “the effort of two or more parties acting independently to secure the business of a third party by offering the most favorable terms.”

Is it really a dog-eat-dog world?

Unfortunately, our widespread scarcity-mentality often urges us to think that there is a finite number of resources available for which we must all compete. Business guru Steven Covey says “People with a scarcity mentality tend to see everything in terms of win-lose. There is only so much; and if someone else has it, that means there will be less for me. The more principle-centered we become, the more we develop an abundance mentality, the more we are genuinely happy for the successes, well-being, achievements, recognition, and good fortune of other people. We believe their success adds to…rather than detracts from…our lives.” He goes on to state that if you’re “Principle Centered” then “Your source of security provides you with an immovable, unchanging, unfailing core enabling you to see change as an exciting adventure and opportunity to make significant contributions.” I would assert that individuals express their thoughts, create their reality, and that nothing happens randomly. Some of us have become more adept than others at manifesting. At any given point in time we are all visualizing different possibilities. The fact that we entertain them means that they are accessible to us in some plane in the continuum that we know as time and it is a matter of attuning our personal energy to the energy of the desired object in order to attain them. In practical terms this means that we must be able to excel in the performance of the job at hand, and successfully portray ourselves as competent to be considered for it.
We must also be aware of the fact that prosperity is a mindset—you will always have as much as you internally feel that you deserve, and no two people have the same definition of what prosperity and success entail. Quantum theory tells us that there is an infinite universe of possibilities and it is our individual attention that forces them to collapse into reality.

See the glass half full

When we compete for a job, an assignment or an award, we must focus on our strong points rather than fearing what the competition may do because that will only detract from our efforts and strengthen our rivals. We must put our best foot forward and detach from the outcome. If we do not achieve a particular goal, we must trust that at a higher level it was not meant to be because we were not ready for it or it would have been counterproductive for us at our current stage of development. We cannot wallow in frustration, resentment or bitterness when something does not come through. It will only weaken whatever else we are involved in. We may not be able to connect the dots at the time but the reason for that outcome will usually become apparent in time. We must likewise have our ear to the ground to be aware of coincidences that point to changes in our lives that we must be ready to embrace to fulfill previously laid good intentions, and be aware that as we are all interconnected, favorable outcomes have also to be considered in terms of all involved rather than just egocentrically.

Appearances are not always what they seem

I have experienced, among many others, a business case in point that illustrates these principles precisely. Approximately 25 years ago, I pitched the services of my company to the Miss Universe Host Committee which was looking for a team of interpreters to work for the pageant when they came to Miami. I was successful in my bid and we did that work for ten years. Subsequently, the managing company changed hands and they started using another LSP. I did not dwell on the loss of this client and shortly thereafter, I was hired by a well-known cable company to provide the simultaneous interpretation of not only the Miss Universe Pageant but several other shows, under much better terms. That client lasted another ten years and recently their producers told me they wanted to experiment with other female talent to revamp the programs. I accepted that change, expecting that it would open doors for me in other areas and within two weeks I was hired to do a significant number of live TV shows personally, which I would have been unable to do under the prior schedule, while also providing interpreters with different language combinations for those same gigs. It’s a matter of giving change a free rein in your life and expecting that the universe will lead you to where you need to be to receive the abundance that you are tuned into.

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