3 Lessons People Like Us Can Take Away From The Olympics


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A lot can be learned from watching people at the peak of their profession.

The last two weeks of the summer games in Rio have served up plenty of this, and afforded keen observers plenty of reason to be inspired to do great things.

Here are three quick lessons to take away from the last 17 days.They are simple and in many ways, serve more as reminders that what is often considered common sense, is not always common practice.

The Olympics are UNcommon practice in every single way, and there is always something to be learned from the athletes we cheer on.

1. Exceptionalism Takes Work

Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule won’t be enough to get you to the Olympics, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to put in the hard work necessary to be good at what we do. Swimmers swim, a lot. Runners run, a lot. To be at your best, you have to practice a lot.

That means consistently working to get better, even when you have every reason to think that you are already at the top of your game. The best never quit. They put in the work, a point made incredibly well in this Under Armour commercial featuring Michael Phelps:

“It’s what you do in the dark, that puts you in the light”

2. Focus Focus Focus

I stumbled upon an article last week that said that professionals are trying to do too much and it’s hurting their careers. A focused approach has been evident over the last two weeks of the Olympics. That I know of, there were no multi-sport athletes. The people who made it to Olympic level competition focused on one sport and worked incredibly hard to do it well.

Even then, only highly established and accomplished athletes competed in multiple events in the same sport!

In today’s “have everything” and “do everything” world, that’s a tough sell, but to be at your very best you have to establish yourself as THE BEST in a highly focused area. Once you have that down, it’s time to branch out when it is in your best interest.

3. There’s No Substitute for Kindness

Olympic coverage can often feel like a reality show, with forced storylines and cliffhangers baked into time delayed broadcasts. The best reality programming at any Olympics however, happens off script and spontaneously, usually when an athlete overcomes the unforeseen mid-event. Remember when Derek Redmon tore his hamstring and his father helped him cross the finish line? Remember Kerri Strug?

Well here’s another moment from this year’s games and it is an incredible reminder that even in the midst of competition, lives can be changed through simple kindness.

From the Washington Post:

“I’m never going to forget that moment. When someone asks me what happened in Rio in 20 years’ time, that’s my story.” – Nikki Hamblin (read the rest of this incredible story here)

Now, go do something UNcommonly good.


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