Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Tuesday's Top Ten [What I've Learned From Olympians]

We do not watch a lot of TV, but we have thoroughly enjoyed watching the Olympics. Bean enjoys the diving and she especially likes watching Katie Ledeky or Michael Phelps swim (because she just finished swimming lessons last week so she can swim just like them).  But her favorite is the gymnastics "himnatics" and tells us she wants to do that and that and that and that and that. Whenever we watch "himnatics" she must dress the part and do flips with daddy. She asked for shoes and was a tad disappointed to learn that they compete barefoot. (Perhaps her outfit seemed incomplete?) It's been wonderful to watch the competitions with an interested 3 year old, but my favorite part about the Olympics are the stories behind each athlete. Some are heartbreaking. Some are motivational. Most inspire greatness. It's because of these stories that I have a top ten! Without further ado... Here's 10 things I've learned from Olympian's these last few weeks...

1. Work ethic matters. Every single athlete participating in the Olympics poured blood, sweat and tears into their sport so that they could represent their country as the best of the best. One part of Michael Phelps story I was amazed to learn is his daily schedule: he has 2 workouts a day and swims at least 80,000 meters a week! That's astonishing! I know this example of an athlete's daily grind is not unfamiliar to others. Olympian's do not just show up and compete as naturally amazing athletes (although that helps); they work extremely hard for that gold medal (or to simply be there). It wasn't until watching the Under Armour commercial staring Michael Phelps that I had a glimpse into the hard work and dedication needed to boast 28 medals and years of Olympic experience! The fact is that there is no athlete in history who even comes close to owning that many medals of that caliber and they were not simply given to him. He had to work for them.
 My favorite part of this video is the end; when he's alone, shivering with the effects of cold, hard work wearing on his face, and a glimmer of determination in his eye.

2. You cannot be selfish. I thought about this one a lot as I watched the amazing story of Wayde van Niekerk from South Africa who set the world record in the 400 meter dash from lane 8! It was absolutely phenomenal to watch him win with the incredible time of 45.26! After hearing his story I told Kyle that I couldn't help but route him on! I was so excited to see him win after hearing him say, "I'm not just running for myself. I'm running for my mom and my coach and my country." He's absolutely right. He represents so many people who have put in the time and effort to help him achieve his goals (his mom and his coach) but he is wearing his country's colors and when they call his name they also call out his country. There is no room for selfishness. But the part of the story that most amazed me was his mother. She was a gifted athlete who was not allowed to compete because of the color of her skin. Thankfully times have changed in South Africa and instead of being bitter, her selflessness in one statement blew me away, it was something along the lines... "I was not meant to compete, but I was meant to be Wayde's mother so he could compete." Her selflessness is worth noting. And mimicking.

3. Be dedicated. Most people cannot match their dedication and drive. If they want to compete at this level, they cannot give up when times get difficult. There is story after story after story of broken bones, surgeries, injuries galore that did not stop or slow these athletes down. Sure it was a set back, but they did not give up. They were single-minded and resolute when it came to reaching their goal. Be like Oksana Chusovitina, 41 years old, unwilling to give up her sport despite her age. That kind of discipline is rare.

4. They are goal oriented. They have an end in mind and they look to it and push themselves beyond what they thought they could endure because their goal is to cross the finish line and stand on the podium. Everything they did and do is wrapped around that goal they made for themselves.

5. Keep your eyes on the finish line. Any diversion might throw you off course.What is your end goal? How are you going to get there? Work hard. Stay dedicated. And keep your eyes on the prize. No matter what adversities come your way.

6. They work through adversity. Each athlete experienced failure. Gymnasts fall off the balance beam. Sprinters false start. There's injury and set backs and mistakes, just like every other human being on the planet. The difference is that they pushed through the hard times, working and working and working and despite the pain kept their eyes on the finish line. 

7. Be coachable. Olympic athlete's are experts at their field. Whatever sport they've undertaken, they know inside and out. Yet, they rely on coaches to teach, train, and offer wisdom. They trust their plan, they trust their advice, and they heed it. Athletes are successful when they listen and apply. That's being coachable. Wayde van Niekerk (as one example) has the utmost respect for his 74 year old coach and her life-time of wisdom. 

8. Do not have confidence without humility. Each athlete must be confident in his/her ability to compete with the best. Confidence that he/she has trained their very best. But they must also recognize that other athlete's contain that same confidence, drive and determination. Anything can happen. So one must be confident and humble because like Felix experienced in the 400 meter sprint - you can be beaten. 
What I love about this video is Miller's "give it all" finish. She gave everything she had on that track. But I also admire how Felix finished. She knew she lost and yet she was humble enough to go over to the one who beat her and help her up. I wish the video continued to play, because that kind of sportsmanship is worth watching!

9. Give 110%. If you want to leave with no regrets you must give it all you have. It was clear Miller gave it 110% when you see her finish the 400 and it was clear that Phelps gave it all he had when he tried to exit the pool but was clearly too shaky and exhausted to do it with ease. If you want to win, give it all you've got and then some.

10. Have respect for others. Hold others in high regard. Everyone has a story and in that story is conflict, struggle, highs and lows - just like yourself. In order to compete at the Olympics each athlete must work as hard as the other. Athlete's must not disregard others achievements. Felix clearly demonstrated this respect towards Miller and Bolt also showed respect even after being hit by a camera man. 
It was clearly the camera man's fault, but Bolt's response, "... accidents happen..." shows respect when he could've been angry towards someone who could've injured him - taking him out of the race! Instead, it was said that the camera man offered him a token of apology and Bolt wore it at his next race. That kind of respect towards others is worth mimicking. 

We should apply that same mind set to our marriage, our parenting, our friendships, our jobs, our education... imagine the results if we applied the hard work, determination, respect, and selflessness to the important things of our life, just as an Olympic athlete does at his/her sport? I truly wish I had that mindset 15 years ago when I faced adversity on the basketball court my senior year of high school, instead I let it discourage me. I decided to party instead of pushing myself the years following that experience and quit. I will forever regret that. Learn from my mistakes and be like these Olympic athlete's who persevere, have coachable attitudes, who work hard, who show dedication, discipline, humility and respect for others.

Today I use my story and the stories of others to inspire. I write about them often when I talk about Christian's facing ISIS or being persecuted for their faith. I want to be like them. Dedicated. Goal oriented. Working hard. And keeping my eyes on the finish line - when my faith becomes sight at meeting Jesus face to face! Everyone - Olympic athlete or not - will meet Jesus face to face and I want to spend the rest of my life with my eyes on the prize, learning about this Man I'm going to spend an eternity with all because I believe He forgave me for my disrespectful attitude 15 years ago - and each sin past, present, and future. As a result, I owe Him my life. 

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