I’ve been pretty consumed with the Olympics for the past couple of weeks.
And now I’m not sure what to do with myself for the next four years.
I love watching the Olympics—and I do mean love. I typically enjoy watching any and all sports, but there’s something about these competitions that happen only once every four years that draws me in more than most other things. Maybe part of the reason is the specialness that it does happen less often, but I think the main aspect that truly appeals to me is the passion.
Because I’m a huge fan of the occasional dramatic flair.
It’s Michael Phelps looking like a Greek god after a redemption gold medal race. It’s the Final Five dominating every other country (What the heck happened to the days of Romanian glory?!). It’s Allyson Felix proving she’s a boss. It’s the women’s 4x100m relay running all by themselves in front of an entire stadium to say, “Oh hey. We do belong in the finals. Thanks.” It’s Galen Rupp capturing the bronze in only his second marathon ever, losing to a Kenyan and an Ethiopian (go figure). It’s this—the spirit of what all of this is really about in the grander picture. It’s Kerri Walsh Jennings still being proud after winning bronze in her first loss at the Olympics as she became the most decorated beach volleyball player in Olympics history. It’s Katie Ledecky saying, “Hey, world. I’m just here to win everything,” yet not actually saying those words and doing it so humbly. It’s Usain Bolt turning to smile and laugh at his buddy during the 200m semifinals—and still winning (oh, and then going on to win everything by a lot). It’s Mo Farah falling in the 10K only to get back up and take the gold as if the mishap never occurred. It’s the excitement in pretty much every swimming and running event.
Basically, it’s almost every single Olympics moment (well, minus the whole Ryan Lochte mess).
I always wish I could be there in those moments and experience them, too. However, as I sat and watched the Ukrainian rhythmic gymnasts kick major a$* on a performance to Madonna’s “Vogue” (solid choice, ladies), it hit me very clearly: I will never be an Olympian.
And somehow I think I’m OK with that.
We had our office “Global Games” last week, and I realized there are many things in life in which I could never go pro—pool noodle javelin and cup stacking are two of those things. It’s a harsh reality to face, but it occurred to me that we have the opportunity to be sort of like Olympic athletes every single day. The training looks a little different, and there surely isn’t as much fanfare, but the passion and purpose are still there.
We frequently have chances to strive more toward our goals—whatever they may be—and push others to do the same, as well. There’s something that’s vastly different than the actual games, though. Rather than trying to defeat others along the way, we need to love them. People don’t need insults. People don’t need accolades (even if they are welcomed most of the time). People don’t need to have failures rubbed in their faces. People don’t need teasing. People don’t need us to add to their pain. People don’t even need medals.
But people do need love.
I know there are things in life that are important to us: success, happiness, work, the feeling of winning, proving others wrong, status, where we are, what crowds we’re part of and so many other pieces of our lives that we highly value.
But people trump them all.
You won’t be rated by international judges, you won’t place above or below others, you won’t have to out-kick people to prove yourself, and you won’t be disqualified if you screw up (thanks, grace). You do, however, get the choice of whether or not you want to have teammates help you along the way or go solo the entire time.
And that whole gold, silver and bronze medal thing will look different, but that’s OK—what you win will last longer and be more important than medals that just sit there all day and can’t even carry on conversations with you. For a number of reasons, people and love are so much better than medals.
And knowing that is practically the same as standing on any Olympic podium.