Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Olympic Challenge

I enjoy the Olympics. 

I enjoy the ideals espoused and, in large, followed.

The Olympic Creed, drafted in 1908 by Pierre de Coubertin, father of the modern Olympics, reads as follows:

"The most important thing in the Olympic games is not to win but to take part, 
just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. 
The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."

I gain inspiration from that creed.

It reminds me of what, in my view, is truly best about sport - not the victories or the fame or the grandness of hardware received, but merely engaging the desire to compete. Not as profession or a means to an end, but simply competition for competition sake with people from all over the world who share that enthusiasm.

That enthusiasm is not so terribly different than what I recall playing sports as a kid. The pure enjoyment derived from playing a game for no other reason than to challenge oneself to perform. The ability and desire to load upon oneself self-doubt along with confidence, power with control, rage with calm, fear with courage, to willingly put oneself in a position to fail or succeed.

Having been an active kid, I recall only wanting to play any sport or game I could get my hands on.  I settled on a few favorites but I often tell people that I grew up playing golf. I mean this as frame of reference in time but also in regard to mental maturity. Golfers will understand what I mean. Golf, when in its most essential form, has a way of making us all very humble and also keeping us very equal. Size and strength really matters very little when it comes to golfing success. It was from that sport I learned at an early age what failure is like... frequently.

What I also learned is that when one continues to try, successes will also become apparent. I consider myself quite lucky in that most of my friends growing up felt the same way as I did and we all loved to compete with and against each other. Whether it was a fully sanctioned league game of some sort or a simple backyard challenge, I enjoyed whatever form it took. Not realizing it at the time, those days spent playing sports and games were all little defining moments in my growth to adulthood.

In my adulthood ironically, and especially I find when one has a family to be concerned with, I wonder if I too easily recuse myself from challenges, seeking the security that comes from experience and the 'knowns'. As a parent I feel often as if I default to a place of low-risk security in an attempt to provide that solid platform for my children to learn to test their own limits. I also wonder if sometimes I couldn't better exemplify behavior toward challenges by testing myself more, showing them how I define and respond to success and failure.

It's often said we learn most from our failures, and less from our successes. I happen to agree. That fact that failures are so often frequent is also what makes those fleeting moments of success all the sweeter. The Olympics exemplify this on the highest level and for that I am grateful to witness.

It also serves as a reminder that there is a little bit of Olympian in all of us... 
if we choose to embrace it.

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