Original Thought

The Best and the Not so Best


The Olympics offers us a glimpse into life, patriotism, courage, corruption and perseverance and commitment. There are tragedies, travesties, fairy tales in real time and a whirlwind of metaphors and parables being woven in the ether. I don’t know if I need the official approval of the IOC to even type the O word or some official credential to tell a story or offer my perspective from afar but I will chance it this morning and offer some observations. The words here are generalized and if it sounds like I am stating a fact, well I am likely not.

Let’s begin with the heroism. I admit that I seem to have a need for heroes, especially if they have fallen from grace and had some type of redemption. Prior to the Rio games I wasn’t a fan of Michael Phelps. There wasn’t any animosity or distaste, just ambivalence. His records and performance were impressive but I didn’t cheer for him. This year, his back story and rehabilitation meant something more. A Joseph Campbell hero saga story was crafted by circumstances, agents and media and I found myself rooting for his return to the top of the podium. The conquering hero didn’t disappoint. With all the drama of a James Cameron movie (one in the making?) Michael took on the challengers, heir apparents, and wanna bes. If there is a lesson rather than hype, it might be that we are created to overcome odds and like Von Goethe says we need to be committed.

For Canadians, the new hero, with her own guest in the background, is Penny Oleskiak. Rather than a vanquishing dragon slayer, she is the protagonist with humility. Her medals and individual results don’t overshadow the team she is a part of. As a reluctant hero, she is charming and humble. I suspect that there was some story crafting before the games and some editing and adapting since they started but in her story we see hard work, determination, genetics, and hope. We can all use more of three of those.

There are so many athlete successes from the Refugee Team to the Fijian 7s that speak to what I understand the O to symbolize but tantrums, favoritism, missed opportunity and cowardice have raised their heads too. For me the corrupt action of decision makers in disregarding drug testing reports in order to save face and appease a nation embroiled in the scandal is the antithesis of these symbols.
I struggle to understand how men and women could condone illegal action by athletes and state and still hold the rings high. There has been many suggestions that we should hold Juicer Games where anyone can compete regardless of steroid or HGH or genetic manipulation. Somewhat tongue in cheek, they say they would love to see how fast, high, strong we could be before exploding.

Away from the games Bill Murray offered a better comparison. He would like there to be an average Jane or Joe in every race just so we can actually understand how remarkable these performance are. It would give us pause to realize that 64th in the world is still 10’s of times faster, higher, stronger than most humans on the planet could achieve.

As we move into the track and field, where there is sure to be controversy, I am choosing to stay focused on the best of the games – the athletes, coaches and teams who represent excellence, honesty, fair play and generosity.

Make Today Remarkable, by being inspired,

Self Improvement

Accepting Your Limits for Today

This week, I was in our gym doing some strength training and feeling a bit insecure about how much/little I am able to dead lift and overhead press. I know it isn’t suppose to be a competition and honestly there wasn’t even anyone else there. The insecurity was humbling and I usually respond better to humility inducing opportunities. Anyway, I added 10 pounds to OHP weight and recorded it in an app I use from Stronglifts called 5X5. I did the first set and pushed the button to record it. After 45 seconds, I did a second set and realized that I had overdone the weight increase because my ego didn’t like the humble pie but I did the 5 reps and clicked the button. After 90 seconds I struggled mightily through set 3 and clicked and then pushed ‘Finished’ instead of doing two more prescribed sets ( my acknowledgement of my mistake and limitations). The app said “quitting isn’t and option”. I hadn’t seen that ‘motivation’ reminder before but pushed ‘Finished’ again. ” are you a wimp?” was the app’s response. My back was up and in most circumstances I would have gotten into a ‘let-me-show-you’ space and ignored my inner voice saying ” you have reached your limit”. This time I pushed ‘Finished’ one last time and turned the app off. I used it again later in the week after learning so many lessons about myself and better way to react to external stimuli.

Sometimes when we are feeling vulnerable, we ignore or deny or unaware of the cause. Many of us have a sick-it-up backstory from childhood where pushing through at any cost was always the right answer. I recognize that I have scripts running in my head from a father who likely really just wanted me to succeed and high school coaches who wanted to win. I also realize that quitting is a slippery slope – harder to do the first time than the fifth (at anything). Persistence is a virtue that I celebrate but I am coming to understand that self awareness and humility to admit limitations are also important aspects I can learn and embrace.

The rest of my workouts, this week, were strenuous but within my ability and I was able to run a grueling 10K trail run on a muddy course, this morning, (and finish first in my age group) because I didn’t injure myself. The takeaway for me and maybe others is that pushing to be better is great but recognizing your current limits without personal judgement is greater.

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Tomorrow, I tackle OHP, dead lifts and squats with a new clarity of purpose and promise.

Make Today Remarkable, by accepting humility,