In our series on what you can learn from the Olympians, I wanted to discuss some things that I find very important. I love to watch the Olympics because I admire all the athletes for all the hard work and sacrifice they have put in over the years. This leads me to my first point, sacrifice.
By now, I’m sure you’ve seen many of the unbelievable stories about athletes giving up lots of freedoms to become the best. Watching the women’s 200m last night, Allyson Felix of the US shared her heartache and disappointment after the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and how she had to make sacrifices and be selfish to reach her goals of being an Olympic gold medalist. The story is well known how Gabby Douglas’ mom sent her away to find better coaching so she could reach her dreams. Even the commercials talk about it. Have you seen the Citi commercial where one athlete talks of how he hasn’t eaten desert in 2 years, another hasn’t watched TV for over a year?
I share all these with you because I want you to understand that in order to be successful in life you are going to have to sacrifice at some point. If you have a desire to be healthy, then that is going to mean skipping the cake when everyone else is digging in, perhaps getting up early to get a quick workout in because that’s the only time available, waking up every day excited and joyful no matter your circumstances. It may mean skipping out on a new TV in order to pay for a trainer, chiropractic care, or even organic food. Either way, you will have to sacrifice.
This Olympics has been awesome as I was able to watch a former teammate compete. Leonel Manzano was a teammate of mine with the Austin Striders Track Club when I was in high school. He was amazing even then just so you know. But what many people don’t know is that Leo almost quit track in order to help support his family. Leo and his family made the sacrifice to keep him running, and now he is a silver medalist! Sacrifice is something we all do, but many times we sacrifice the wrong things. We will sacrifice our health and fitness to watch 6 different TV shows. We will sacrifice our relationships for our careers. Where can you sacrifice to get to the life you want to have?
If you are reading this now, odds are you aren’t completely satisfied with every aspect of your life. In fact, you probably have already done something today to sabotage your goals for your life. Here in America, I find persistence to be a trait that is severely lacking. I want you to think back to high school or college or some time when you had a major test in your life. If you’re anything like I was or many others like me, you probably waited until the last minute, crammed as much as you could and then hoped for the best when the test actually came around. The problem with this is that in cramming, what did you really learn? You probably forgot half the material right after the test. I know I did.
What if our Olympians had this attitude? What if they woke up right before the trials and decided to put a year or two years worth of training in one night or even a week? How successful do you think they’d be? The reality is that most of these athletes have been training night and day for years, some since they were only small children. Somewhere along the line, these athletes realized they had potential to do something great and worked countless hours to achieve their dreams. Was it hard? Absolutely! Did they want to quit? I’m sure over and over and over. Despite this fact, they persisted through all the pain, heartache and sacrifice to become the best in their field.
As a former personal trainer and someone in the health industry, I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve seen try to make a change and quit only after a short time. I’ve seen people workout once, get sore and then quit because it’s too hard. I still get sore myself sometimes and I workout a lot. I’ve seen people go on a diet for a day and give up because they don’t want to give up their donuts. If you truly desire to do something great, or even small, there will be times when you have to persist to go beyond where you are now. Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers says that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. What goal do you have? How many hours have you logged trying to reach it? Have you been persistent even through the hard times?
And once again, more proof the best athletes in the world get adjusted.