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Lessons Generation iY Can Learn From Lance Armstrong

For many Lance Armstrong has been a hero. He is a world-class bicyclist and even continued winning tours after battling cancer. Then, with trophies everywhere, he began leading a non-profit, LiveStrong, to fight cancer everywhere. He appears to be squeaky clean. And we like it that way. For leaders, especially young leaders, his recent news can be disheartening. Many suspected he was using PEDs (Performance Enhancing Drugs), but we all hoped it wasn’t true. We like this guy.


photo credit: bingham30069 via photopin cc

So what are the lessons we can learn from him about being people of influence?

1. We must remember there’s no such thing as good people and bad people.

It’s easy to categorize people into good and bad, based on a specific good deed or bad deed they’ve demonstrated. The truth is—there is good in all the seemingly bad people and bad in all the seemingly good ones. My reminder is: you cannot be disillusioned without first being “illusioned.” We must throw away our illusion that people are good; that our work should be easy; and that leaders are flawless.

2. We must combat a culture that conditions us to categorize our life.

How can an influential person like Lance Armstrong spearhead such a worthwhile cause (beating cancer) and use performance-enhancing drugs at the same time? It’s probably the same reason Bill Clinton could raise money for refugees and be in a sex scandal with a White House intern simultaneously. More and more, our society pushes us to compartmentalize our lives—and it can be dangerous.

3. We must beware so that expediency doesn’t rule our world.

Somewhere along the way, Lance decided to do whatever he had to do to win, even if it meant breaking the rules. Forget the idea that he needed to be an example for others to follow. Forget the law or the unfair advantage the drug gave him over his competition, Lance did what was expedient. He reminds us that our commitment to integrity can be easily eroded by our love of progress.

4. We must refuse to let power intoxicate us.

Let’s face it. Lance Armstrong had accumulated influence over the years, both from leading his sport and his cause. Author Donald Miller suggests that power just may have gotten the best of him. He felt the power from what he did, both good and bad. And when we feel the power of power—we tend to feel like exceptions to the rule. We are above it all.

5. We must be leaders who integrate our life as much as possible.

They don’t just become disciplined in one area of their life. They are holistic and build discipline and values into how they live out each compartment of their life. They are the same in public and private. This is one I am still learning and probably will be the rest of my life. But I know it is right.

What do you think? Are there any other lessons we can learn from his story? Click here to leave a comment.

HabitudesForAthletesWant to prepare athletes for excellence in sports and life? Check out Habitudes for Athletes.


  1. kim on October 25, 2012 at 6:50 am

    thank you for your insights. i learn it everyday and inspiring.

    • Tim Elmore on October 28, 2012 at 10:15 pm

      Thanks for taking time to comment.

  2. D. Lawler on October 25, 2012 at 8:09 am

    Interesting insights. Unfortunately when a person of Lance Armstrong’s fame is shown to take to poor decisions, we are left to wonder in what other areas of life did they make poor decisions.

    • Tim Elmore on October 28, 2012 at 10:15 pm

      Definitely makes us wonder…

  3. Rebekah Lyon on October 25, 2012 at 8:25 am

    Great article, Tim. Who do public “heroes” and those in leadership choose to be “sharpened” by and spend most of their time with? I don’t know if the Lance Armstrongs of the world have accountability partners or submit themselves to mentors/authorities in their lives, but I believe this is a must if our goal as leaders is to stay humble, grounded and remain where God can work most through us.

    Always so encouraged by your words, Tim. Thank you and please keep blogging, speaking and sharing!

    • Tim Elmore on October 28, 2012 at 10:14 pm

      Great point. And thanks for the kind words!

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Lessons Generation iY Can Learn From Lance Armstrong