Down but never out

Karoly Takacs. ­­ ever heard the name?

In Hungary, he’s a national hero. Everybody there knows his name and his incredible story.

In 1938, Karoly Takacs was in the Hungarian army and was acclaimed as the top pistol shooter in the world. He was expected to win gold in the 1940 Olympic Games scheduled for Tokyo. But when a hand grenade exploded while in training one day, his dream of winning the medal had been extinguished. Takacs’ right hand, his shooting hand, had been blown off.

He spent a month in the hospital depressed at both the loss of his hand and the end to his Olympic dream. At that point, what would you have done? Most people would have quit. And they would have probably spent the rest of their lives feeling sorry for themselves.

But not Takacs. Takacs was a winner. Winners know that they can’t let grave conditions keep them down. They understand that life is hard and that they can’t let it beat them down. Winners know in their heart that quitting is never an option.

What Takacs did was rather remarkable: He picked himself up, dusted himself off, and made his mind to learn how to shoot with his left hand!

His reasoning was simple. He simply asked himself: “Why not?” Instead of focusing on what he didn’t have ­­ a world class right shooting hand, he decided to focus on what he did have ­­ incredible mental fortitude, and a healthy left hand, that he could practice and perfect with.

Life will beat you down, but quitting is never an option

For months Takacs practiced by himself. No one knew what he was doing. Maybe he didn’t want to subject himself to people who most certainly would have discouraged him from his rekindled dream.

In the spring of 1939, he showed up at the Hungarian National Pistol Shooting Championship. Other shooters approached Takacs to offer him condolences and to congratulate him on having the strength to come watch them shoot. They were surprised when he said: “I didn’t come to watch, I came to compete.”

Imagine their expressions when Takacs won.

Takacs definitely had the right to feel sorry for himself. He had the right to stay depressed and to ask himself “why me?” for the rest of his life. He had the right to act like a mediocre man. Takacs could have let his terrible accident cause him to become permanently discouraged, to take up alcohol, to quit on life altogether, and maybe even to end his own life. He could have acted like a loser.

I know a friend who was beaten down after a very bad break­up, shattered, she left medical school, stayed at home a recluse for more than over a year feeling sorry for herself. She didn’t make a quick recovery. She wasn’t strong.

But it’s alright. You know why? Because it’s never too late. She fought her way back in, found herself again, and she is currently one of the top students at her university. She made the decision to dig deep inside and to find a solution. To pick herself up and to learn to get going all over again.

Winners always search for a solution. Losers always search for an escape. The reason a quick recovery is important is because you don’t lose your momentum or your drive. Get ready to fight.

Takacs recovered in only a month. If he had wallowed in his misery, if he had stayed “under the circumstances,” if he had played the martyr and felt sorry for himself for much longer than he did, he would have lost his mental edge and he never would have been able to come back.

When a boxer gets knocked down, he has ten seconds to get back up. If he gets up in more than eleven seconds, he loses the fight. Remember that next time you get knocked down.

Ever encountered rickshaw pullers who are working hard to finance their college education? Have any relatives who have suffered a huge financial loss in the stock market in 2010? Ever had a classmate who was really poor but now is making a name for himself? Think of an example or two on your own.

These people are all around us. And you know they are fighting back.

Next time you get knocked down, decide to act like a winner. Decide to act like Takacs. Get up quickly, take action, and make the most of your life. People will love you, respect you, and admire your cause. In the words of the immortal AC/DC: “For those about to rock … we salute you.”

This article was originally published at Dhaka Tribune.



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Touhid Kamal

Touhid Kamal

Reading, writing, listening and speaking all about human behavior. Reach me at