Thursday, August 2, 2012

"Not Winning But Taking Part" {Inspiration of the Week}

If you know me at all, you should not be surprised that I'm posting about the Olympics again. Just count yourself lucky that this is only the second Olympic post so far, after nearly a week of competition!

The Olympic Games provide me with an endless source of inspiration, but today I'd like to focus on the people we don't see too much on NBC's main coverage. I'm talking about the athletes who are both not American and not very good. Well, I should clarify: I mean "not very good" by Olympic standards. I'm certain the slowest swimmer, runner, and cyclist could all lap me on my best day! But within the realm of athletes actually competing in these Games, there can be a pretty wide discrepancy of talent between the best and the ones who are lucky just to be there.

I love these little-known, little-seen athletes. They compete only in the earliest rounds of competition and rarely make it anywhere near a medal stand. They probably know from the start that they don't have much chance of winning, and yet they train as best they can and show up at the Olympics ready to give it their all while representing their countries. We tend to be myopic and focus only on the competitors from the powerhouse countries who send tons of elite athletes to these Games, but what we may not realize is that about half of the more than 200 participating countries send fewer than 10 athletes each. Some of these small teams happen to be among the top in the world at their sports, but many more have won their greatest contest just in earning a spot in the Games. To me, each one of these athletes is as much an Olympian as any gold medalist -- even Michael Phelps himself.

With a little over a week left in these Olympics, I challenge you to catch some of these athletes in action -- the ones who do it for the love of sport and not for the glory that comes with winning medals. You'll probably have to watch some live coverage online or on your smartphone in order to find them, because they're unlikely to make the mainstream coverage unless they unexpectedly emerge as stars for some reason. Watch them put forth their best effort, appreciate their commitment, and resolve to put that same degree of effort into the things you do -- the things that won't bring you glory but will change your life for the better if you take them on like an Olympian.

Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games, best expressed what I'm trying to say here: “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.”

Fight well, my friend. Fight well every day, and you will be the champion of your own life.

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