Life lessons from Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games – Part 2

OMAHA, NE - JULY 02: Michael Phelps of the United States celebrates after finishing first in the final heat for the Men's 100 Meter Butterfly during Day Seven of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials at CenturyLink Center on July 2, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. Al Bello/Getty Images/AFP AL BELLO / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

OMAHA, NE – JULY 02: Michael Phelps of the United States celebrates after finishing first in the final heat for the Men’s 100 Meter Butterfly during Day Seven of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials at CenturyLink Center on July 2, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. Al Bello/Getty Images/AFP AL BELLO / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

Albert Einstein once said, “If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.” In my thorough understudy of winners and losers, I have realized that they differ only in their focus. While winners focus on winning and self-improvement, losers focus on winners! It is appalling to note that many youths are so versed in information that has to do with celebrities but have little or no knowledge about themselves. Of all the things attributed to the great Plato, one thing that stands out is his persistent harping on “MAN,KNOW THYSELF”. The Greek wrote over the doors of their temples “Gnothi Seauton” meaning “KNOW THYSELF.” I have realized that highly focused people don’t gossip. They have better, more productive things to do with their time.

“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of who you are”- Kurt Cobain
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment”. Many teens and youths live a life centered around celebrity happenings and scandals and most times the media also compound this destructive obsession by focusing more on celebrity news. Magazines, Web sites, newspapers and TV programs all focus on celebrity media to the detriment of personal development. It is appalling to see many youths reeling out information offhand on the latest news about footballers, musicians, comedians, actresses and actors but are totally void of the knowledge of their own capabilities and gifts. They focus on celebrities to their own neglect. I have discussed among my colleagues severally on the need to evolve magazines and newspapers that focus mainly on youth development, leadership and capacity building. We must train the youths to sieve out distractions even on social media as winners must constantly identify and eliminate distractions on their path to destiny fulfilment.

Orison Marden said, “Concentrate, for the greatest achievements are reserved for the man of single aim, in whom no rival powers divide the empire of the soul”. You will always travel in the direction of your focus and the story of Michael Phelps has assuredly confirmed that focus will always keep you on course. Michael Fred Phelps who was born on June 30, 1985 is an American swimmer and the most decorated Olympian of all time, with an array of Olympic gold medals. Phelps started swimming at the age of 10 under his coach, Bob Bowman. Though he played a variety of sports but later concentrated solely on swimming. Phelps began to forge his Olympic legend at the age of 15, it was the age he earned a spot on the 2000 United States Olympic team, becoming the youngest American male Olympian in over 60 years. It was in no doubt that the American kid was poised for stardom.

“Winning isn’t getting ahead of others. It’s getting ahead of yourself.”- Roger Staubach
In an age where many swimmers specialize in one stroke, Phelps excelled at the butterfly, backstroke, and freestyle. At the 2001 world championships, he set a world record in the 200-meter butterfly, becoming the youngest male U.S. swimmer ever to set a world mark at 15. Two years later he emerged as one of the sport’s premier athletes by winning four more titles and setting five world records at the 2003 world championships in Barcelona, Spain. It was the first time a swimmer had set the many world marks in one meet. Phelps was named the winner of the 2003 Sullivan Award, given annually to the top U.S. amateur athlete. He was eligible for the award because he did not accept prize money for swimming. Michael Phelps had maximum impact in the sport of swimming, breaking amazing records just because he was able to streamline his goal and aim.

“Winners train, losers complain”-Unknown
Michael Phelps is amazingly a great swimmer for two major reasons: His unique body structure and his unparalleled thirst for self-improvement. He took a very big advantage of his body shape and anatomical features to make an impact out of his swimming career. At a height of 6’4”, coupled with an arm span of 6’7” giving him an incredible pulling power in the water. Phelps is also gifted with a torso of a 6’8” man which is hydrodynamic. Being a long and triangular-shaped man, he has a tall man’s legs and larger feet than an average human which acts as a flipper. Phelps’ body was a divine gift perfect for swimming with both speed and endurance but he had to spend time to bring out the best in himself. He has an amazing drive to succeed and his efforts in constant and consistent training cannot be overestimated.

Prior to the 2004 Olympic Games the 19-year-old Phelps set his sights on the ultimate swimming record: the seven gold medals that Mark Spitz won at the 1972 Olympics . Phelps knew it was going to be extremely difficult but not impossible. Phelps eventually won eight medals in the Games but not all gold, although he fell just short of Spitz’s record, his outstanding performances and sportsmanship in Athens earned Phelps widespread acclaim. “Everyone was comparing me to Mark Spitz. But for me – I still say this a lot – it was never about beating Mark Spitz,” said Phelps. “It never was. It was about becoming the first Michael Phelps, not the second Mark Spitz. And that’s truly what I always dreamt of as a kid. I dreamt of doing something that no one had ever done before.” In the years that followed, the Bob Bowman prodigy became the most decorated swimmer in the history of the world championships breaking even imaginary records!
“Losers let it happen; winners make it happen”-Denis Waitley

He won five titles at the 2005 world championships in Montreal. At the 2007 world championships in Melbourne, Australia, Phelps won seven gold medals and set five world records. Phelps retired from his beloved sport at the age of 27 in 2012 and came back out of it 2 years before the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio. Phelps went back into constant training again and consolidated his winning streak at the just concluded Olympic Games in Rio. He really wowed the world in Rio by winning five golds and a silver, taking his total to 28 Olympic medals, 23 of them gold!
One of the most amazing entrepreneurs of the 21st century, Steve Jobs once said, “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition”. Michael Phelps secret has always been his attitude of undiluted focus and self –improvement. He has become a man that is now more amazing in water than he is on land!

In the famous book, The Prince, written by Italian philosopher, diplomat and political theorist, Niccolò Machiavelli, one of his most powerful and inspiring quotes says, “Where the willingness is great, the difficulties cannot be great.” I am reaching out to the youths out there to discover the one thing they were created to be and be willing to pay the price to be it. Stop focusing on the frivolities of life; stop yielding to life’s distractions. Losers focus on what they are going through, winners focus on where they are going to. Just like Michael Phelps, stop focusing on other people’s race, focus on your own lane!

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