I've been glued to the Olympics for many reasons. First, I am in awe of the speed at which these amazing human specimens race down hill or zip across ice while doing fancy flips, spins and jumps. Second, the sheer artistry of figure skaters and ice dancers is worth the price of admission. And third, and most interesting to me, is the mindset that drives these extraordinary athletes to become the fastest, highest, and spinning-est. Here are the lessons I believe are applicable to all of us, athlete and couch potato alike. Believe in yourself. Every athlete interviewed has a story of setbacks, hardships and failures. At any point along their journey to the Olympics, they could have declared their dream over. What all these champions have in common, regardless of their particular sport, is they didn't stop. Moreover, they used personal difficulties as motivation to train even harder because they believed--no, they knew--they were capable of what we are now witnessing. Their self images are unshakably rock solid.
Do what you love. Only three medals are awarded for any one event, which means that most of the competitors will not stand on a podium. They train for years for their few moments on the ice or snow. Why do they do this? Because they don't know how not to do that which they love. They wake up each day excited to work at their sport. We don't have to be athletes to choose work or activities we love.
Be a good sport. Whether they come in first or last, these athletes typically applaud their competitors' accomplishments, are tactfully honest about their own accomplishments, and do not blame other people if they come up short. Over and over we hear "it all came together for me," "it just wasn't my day," or "s/he ran a perfect race."
Importance of parents. Every background story I've seen on individual athletes highlights the role that parents played in the lives of these amazing athletes. Many parents sacrificed sleep, money and home, from driving to training sessions at 4:00 a.m. to moving hundreds, if not thousands, of miles to access the best facilities and coaches. Underlying all of these physical and financial sacrifices is the theme of the parents' belief in their child's dream. Most wee skaters, skiers and snowboarders don't grow up to be Olympic athletes, yet these parents allowed their children's dreams to go as far as possible. We, non-Olympic parents, can do the same no matter our children's quests.
Find a great coach. Oh c'mon, I had to throw this one in!
Clearly, the Olympics provides us with phenomenal entertainment that will end soon. We then must wait four more years to watch another crop of brilliant athletes display their talents, set amidst the spectacular alpine scenery. Until then, we can all practice the above lessons of champions. Skates, snowboards and skis optional.