If you have read much of my blog, by now you know that we watch the Olympic Games at my home. There is so much real life drama. There are so many stories, so many things to see. So many lessons, if you wish to take the time to find them. So many examples of character, on poor winners and graceful losers, on champions who shine, and those who fall short of the high standards, but shine because of how they compete.
While a gold medal is the goal, others have other goals, other things to prove, more to themselves than to the world. Just to be in the Olympic Games is an honor, to be able to say, “I am an Olympian.” Wow.
There are many stories, but one that caught my attention and I wish to comment on today is Michael Phelps. In the 2008 Beijing Games Phelps was solid gold. That was the only color medal he won. An unprecedented eight gold medals. A vast improvement over his 2004 Athens Games where he won six gold and two bronze medals.
So now, it is 2012 and the London Games are at hand. The Olympic Champion is back, coming out of retirement to compete once again on the Olympic Stage. As I read his bio, the writers tell about records, and accomplishments. While all is great, and he deserves the accolades, there is a moment in the 2012 games that really impressed me. The 200-meter race.
Phelps wasn’t ready for the race, he just made it into a lane from the qualifying rounds. The media was a buzz about the fact that the gold medal winner from the Beijing Games just made it into the pool for the race. The outcome in London was far different from the outcome in China. Phelps lost the 200-meter race. Not only that he didn’t even make the platform, he came in 4th.
It was a defining moment for him. He said as he left the pool and walked behind the diving platform he realized he wasn’t in the game mentally. He took things for granted. In other words he wasn’t going to win just because he had won before.
My wife and I discussed the emotions of the winners. Gold Medal – Happy, they won. Silver Medal – disappointed, they didn’t win the Gold, but they have something to remember, they did their best and got a Silver. Bronze Medal – Grateful, they made it onto the podium. For Phelps 4th place in the Olympics had never happened. He had always stood upon the winner’s platform. Not this time. He had to walk away while others got the glory, glory that was once his.
The defining moment. Quit? Give up? Or gather resolve and get into the game. The Champion always does the latter, they dig deep inside and find that resolve to continue onward.
So losing the 200-meter race became a setback, not a failure.
One oops wipes out a whole lot of atta-boys. However, life is full of setbacks. How we deal with them determines our character. Determines if we grow and learn lessons from them. If we learn the lessons, we become better people, better at whatever we do. A writer takes the news from his critique partner, or beta reader and though they may not like what they are hearing about what they have slaved and worked on, the feedback can make their work better. A student with a lower test score can reflect on what they did to prepare for the test and make adjustments for the next one. A salesman who didn’t close the deal can look back and see what needs improvement and make the adjustment to close on the next sale.
Setbacks are just that, a setback. A learning moment. What you decide to do after the setback determines success, or failure.
What setbacks have you had in your life? What did you learn from it? How did it affect what you did next?