Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What I learned from the Olympics

"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.”

The above quote is the most famous quote about the Olympics and how it relates to life and success. Its hard to define success, because its mercurial, always changing. What you define success will be very different from what I or someone else for that matter will define it as.

If you go by medal count then the United sates will have had the greatest success with 39 medals. If you go just Gold medals then Canada is the most successful with 14. If you go by medals per population, then Norway is hands down the most successful by a long shot. Success could be being the first athlete to compete for your country at the Winter Olympics. I met the Ethiopian cross country ski team….all one of them. Together with his two brothers who acted as his coach and trainer they competed. He told me he wanted to let Ethiopian kids know that life has possibilities. They don't even have a word for skiing in the Ethiopian language. Is success breaking barriers to open new opportunities?

Is success competing at the games when you weren't given a chance to be there or is success winning a medal? Is success being the best at your craft and still walking away with no hardware to show, but you have the respect of your team, coaches and peers knowing you are the best at what you do? Is success not making the team, but staying positive and doing everything in your power to help out those that did?

The thin line of when it's time to give up and move on and persist and not quit is precariously narrow, but it has widened from my Olympic experience. I watched someone compete and do well, that was not even supposed to be there, while someone, if they had just pressed on would be in his shoes. Never, never, never give up. is no longer just a random quote from Winston Churchill, it is no longer just cliche. Is success just being there?

I watched some athletes crumble from the pressure only to bounce back the next week and medal. Winning the medal had nothing to do with why they will be considered a success.

I know individuals that put 18 years into a sport to try to help win a gold medal for their country. I know of countries that placed higher in their sport at the Olympic games then they had ever done in their life, watching them, you couldn't help but feel happy for the amazement and wondrous awe they were feeling after each competition, but if you looked at the time sheet you would not have given them mention.

So is it medals? Is it the number or the color. Is it the obstacles that were overcome. Is it living up to the high expectations bestowed on you? Is it being the first one to represent your country at the Olympic Games? Maybe its the story that comes along with why and how. Maybe its all of that combined and more.

I believe sports are there to inspire, yourself, or those around you or those people watching, whether it's one or one billion. In the end, I think that's what I define success as, did you find out something new about yourself, did you lift someone up to believe in something bigger or better, did you make the place you were at better for having come.

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