Every one of us has heard stories of someone who overcame the odds and reached a goal they should not have been able to accomplish. They inspire us.
Not long ago, I shared the platform with Erik Weihenmayer, one of the rare people who reached the summit of Mount Everest. His story is extra sweet because he did so completely blind. In fact, he’s the only blind person to do it and was honored with a Time Magazine cover story. Erik simply believes he should not let his impairment keep him from his aspirations.
Evan Strong would agree. Evan is the Para-snowboard world champion who dominates on a skateboard as well—but with no left leg. He lost it a few years ago but found a new way to still be the best.
Decades ago, Pete Gray played major league baseball with only one arm. Can you believe it? His manager was quoted as saying: “Pete Gray isn’t handicapped. We’re the ones who are handicapped. It takes us two arms to do what he does with one.”
Bethany Hamilton was a teen surfer who lost an arm to a shark in 2003. She went on to compete in major NSSA competitions, coming 3rd in the 2008 Roxy Pro, 2nd in the 2009 ASP Junior World Champs, and 1st in Surf n Sea Pipeline Women’s Pro earlier this year. Bethany sees the whole thing as an adventure. It’s just part of her story.
What Do These People Have in Common?
People like Erik, Evan, Pete and Bethany see life differently than most. In a similar situation, most of us would assume we must give up on our goals. Life’s not been fair, and we must drop our expectations of it. After all, we’re victims; we can’t excel. But not this group. Instead of becoming bitter, people like Erik, Evan, Pete and Bethany see life as a sport to be won or lost, and behind it all, attitude plays a huge role. In fact, resilient people generally buy into three beliefs:
- Life is a team sport
Human beings are social creatures, and social scientists tell us we perform best when operating in a supportive community… not in seclusion. Sadly, Millennials continue to long for community without knowing how to experience it. They are waiting to get married—an increasing number live alone and eat alone. They find their connections through technology—it’s much less emotionally taxing. Just like in athletics, individual sports are easier to control than team sports. It’s too risky to leave results up to a bunch of unpredictable teammates. However, the research tells us we need each other. Collaboration produces exponential results. One Clydesdale horse can pull 800 lbs of weight. Two can pull 3,000 lbs. The truth is, we can travel faster alone… but we travel farther together. Life is a team sport. Find your support.
- Life is a contact sport
Human beings perform better when they carry realistic expectations into every project or competition. Far too often, young people expect life to be easy, swift and without sacrifice. They become disillusioned because parents have given them “illusions” about they way life works, when in reality, life is a contact sport: we get bumped, we fail, we strike out, we get bruised. We may even get hurt, but it’s normal. When life throws rocks at you… build something with them. A big part of successful living is managing expectations. Just like it would be insane for a football player to expect to never get blocked or tackled while playing, so it is with life. Adversity is part of the game—it’s what makes it an adventure. And if we do more preparing now, we won’t need to do so much repairing later.
- Life is an aerobic sport.
You know what this means, don’t you? Exercises are divided into two categories: aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic exercises can be sustained over long periods of time because you can continue to inhale and exhale along the way. The literal meaning between the two is this: the aerobic process is performed with oxygen while the anaerobic is performed without oxygen. Aerobic sports enable you to get oxygen to your brain over the long haul. I believe this is a picture of life. The fact is, life is a marathon, not a sprint. We’ve all heard this, but students continue to live like there’s no tomorrow. They burn themselves out, thinking only about today or this weekend. It’s anaerobic, it’s about the buzz, it’s about the adrenaline. We are addictive people who thrive on being “wowed,” but it’s unsustainable. The key is pacing, not racing.
How About You?
Great athletes and, for that matter, great people in general, understand these truths about life. They reach the summit because they do it together, they expect to get bumps and bruises along the way, and they build a sustainable pace.
There are over 200 dead, frozen bodies on Mount Everest, many of which you must pass to get to the summit. Some are even used as markers. So which one will you be: the one who reaches the top, or the marker along the way?
Want to prepare athletes for excellence in sports and life?
Check out Habitudes for Athletes.