The Olympics are captivating the world like they do every two years. The stories of athletes overcoming challenges are inspiring, the support of their families is heartwarming and the success some have is momentous.
But most do not win a medal.
There are 2,952 athletes from 92 countries. They compete in 102 events. There are only 306 medals to be won. When you factor in multiple winners of medals only about one in ten athletes will win.
But the ten percent who actually win medals are an example to us. They show us what is possible. They model for us the qualities needed to win in sports – and in life.
Self-discipline is doing what you have to do, doing it as well as you can and doing it that way all the time. Athletes deny themselves many things in order to gain a greater prize. Olympic champions practice this all the time. They know that any loss of focus can cost them their ultimate goal.
Skier Mikaela Shiffrin has stayed off social media since before the Olympics began. She did not want any distractions to keep her from winning. And in her first race, the Giant Slalom, she won a gold medal. Mikaela said, “I haven’t been looking at what people are saying. So I’ve really been away from that a bit and that helps a lot.”
Nathan Chen entered the Olympics as a favorite for the gold. In his short program he fell on every single jump. In his long program he landed six quadruple jumps, a feat never before accomplished at the Olympics. Chen may not have earned a medal but in setting records he overcame his failure.
There is a price to be paid for success. Sacrifices must be made. Snowboarder Chloe Kim and her family had to drive 5.5 hours one way from their Southern California home to Mammoth Mountain for her to train. But the result of her sacrifice is that at just 17 she won the Women’s Snowboarding Halfpipe gold medal.
When you demand of yourself anything and everything you become a winner. Avoiding those temptations that will hinder your effectiveness takes discipline. In order to reach your goals, sacrifices will have to be made time and time again. When times get tough, as they inevitably will, it is your self-discipline that will make the difference.
Successful people are just ordinary people who make commitments others are unwilling to make. Olympic champions have fully commited to their sport. Their will to succeed is what makes them distinct.
Shaun White won the Men’s Snowboarding Halfpipe gold medal last Wednesday. It was his third snowboarding gold medal, making him, once again, an Olympic champion. But he was not the Olympic champion at the 2014 Sochi Games. In fact, he came in fourth place.
He admitted later that he was not fully committed to the sport. He was touring with his band Bad Things and doing more than he ever had away from the sport.
He then recommitted to his Olympic dream. He began working out training off the snow for the first time in his career.
He also changed the team around him, getting a new coach, manager, publicist and physical therapist. He rediscovered his love for the sport once he fully committed.
Too many give up or quit when they face obstacles or experience disappointments. They take the path of least resistance and never experience victory. Commitment means doing whatever it takes, for as long as it takes to ultimately succeed.
Everyone fails. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. Lindsey Vonn is one of the greatest women’s skiers of all-time. She skied a great race in her first event at the Olympics. But she made a mistake on one turn and ended up in sixth place in the Super-G.
Even the best fail at times. She will get another chance in the downhill race. If she wins it will be because Vonn was able to overcome her earlier failure. Failure is inevitable – it is how you handle it that determines whether you win or lose.
Failure is simply feedback. It tells us what did not work and that we require a new approach. We need to fail forward. So we can learn from our mistakes and do better in the future.
Nathan Chen is the reigning male American figure skating champion. He entered the Olympics as a favorite for the gold. In his short program he fell on every single jump. He scored so poorly he ended up in 17th place, eliminating him from medal contention.
In his long program he landed six quadruple jumps, a feat never before accomplished at the Olympics. His technical score was the highest ever achieved by a male skater in any Olympics. Chen may not have earned a medal but in setting records he overcame his failure.
These Olympic winners are inspiring. They show us what can be accomplished when we strive to do our best. Let their example motivate you to achieve your dreams.