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8 Life Lessons To Learn From Remarkable Athletes

8 Life Lessons To Learn From Remarkable Athletes

Rio. For 16 days, the entire world agreed upon one thing – if you could not get to Rio, you had to get to a TV somewhere and watch the games, or at least your favorite sports and athletes. There are two things that the Olympics serve to remind us: First, people from countries that are enemies can come together, live together, compete with one another in peaceful ways, and go back home with a wider perspective. Second, there are people with such commitment to their goals, that they will sacrifice whatever is necessary to achieve them. So, what do remarkable athletes show and tell us about life? What lessons can we learn? Here are 8 from some of the most successful.

1. Your successes are not your own. Along the way, others have supported you. With your success, it is time to give back – support others on their paths to success.

Lionel Messi, captain of the Argentine National Football (Soccer) Team, is now considered the best soccer player ever to take the field. Life was not always so good for Messi. He was born to a steelworker father who could not afford the $900 treatment for hormone growth deficiency. Fortunately, the kid had talent and the treatment was ultimately paid for by a youth football league. Messi knows that his ability to continue in soccer– aside from having tremendous talent– came from somebody who arrived at his financial aid when it was needed the most. Now, he gives back. He is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, active in the support of HIV and AIDS research to help families in Haiti, and has committed $8 million from his team for all of these efforts.

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2. Fear is destructive, and fear of failure condemns you to failure.

Michael Jordan did not make the team when he first tried out for basketball in high school. In his own words, he was embarrassed by the team list that was posted for days. Fear of being embarrassed again could have held a grip on him. Instead however, he overcame that by simply working harder. He eventually made the team, and when he began to play pro ball, his team lost the first three seasons. Again, he could have let embarrassment fuel fear, but of course, it did not. Today, Jordan says, “I know fear is an obstacle to some people, but it is just an illusion to me.”

3. Talent is a gift. But without hard work, it is meaningless.

Eugenie Bouchard is one of the youngest internationally ranked tennis players, and her story is a lesson for anyone aspiring to take his/her raw talent and turn it into success. Her interest in tennis was not initially strongly supported by her family. In fact, no one in her family aspired to any athletic achievements. All on her own, she began to play tennis at the age of 5, and the talent was obvious. By the age of 12, her parents were on board, and she and her mother moved to Florida so she could be coached by one of the all-time greats. Her training was grueling, and she gave up the life that other “normal” teenage girls usually have, to do it all. Today, she is worth about $2 million with a long career still ahead of her.

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4. Don’t measure your success by comparing it to that of others. When you are disappointed, you lose your joy and motivation

Tiger Woods. He had only one golfing goal since childhood – beat the record of Jack Nicklaus’s 18 major tournament wins. This was what motivated him. What he hadn’t counted on, were injuries that kept him off the circuit and a personal life that was a huge distractor. As he realized that he would not beat the Nicklaus record, he lost his joy for the game. And as he lost that joy, he lost his motivation, and his performance continued to decline.

5. Believe in yourself and become your biggest fan, not by being a braggart, but by loving who you are.

Serena Williams grew up in Compton, California, playing tennis on public courts littered with glass and practicing within hearing distance of gunshots. From that, she moved to the largest tennis stages of the world to be ranked #1. Aside from Arthur Ash, tennis has always been a very “white” sport, and when the Williams sisters first hit the professional scene, they were not graciously welcomed. As they began to win, many in the tennis world saw them as interlopers. The wins continued, but rather than developing an attitude, the sisters continued to be who they are; very comfortable. Lo and behold, the tennis world now loves them too.

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6. Be willing to reconcile with those whom you have fought if there is a greater good to be achieved.

When Lebron James announced that he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Miami Heat, owner Dan Gilbert wrote a scathing public letter in which he called James a traitor to the hometown that had loved him, among other things. James grew up in Cleveland and always loved his town. Gilbert knew that he needed James back on the team. Gilbert flew to Florida and sat down with James, apologized, they reconciled, and James returned to Cleveland. The ensuing championships are history. Cleveland has not always had a great reputation, but the Cavaliers have done their part to change that.

7. “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”

This is a huge lesson from Muhammad Ali, boxer and philosopher who was so beloved. The lesson is to stop every once in awhile, and remove the small things that are slowing you down – some bad habits, some resentments, some guilt from the past. All of these things should be addressed and resolved. When you do it, you can move forward without the baggage and tackle those mountains.

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8. Sometimes you need to be the bigger person and apologize, even if it’s not required, in order to keep the peace.

The Olympics has brought us amazing athletic prowess and some wonderful events. Athletes are bringing home medals to countries that have never won any before. There have been comebacks and records broken. Michael Phelps, for example, has now won more gold medals than any other Olympian, a nice finale for his career. There have also been a couple of controversies. When the U.S. women’s gymnastics team was presented with their gold medals, as is tradition, the National Anthem was played. Gabby Douglass did not put her hand over her heart, as is custom. Immediately, Twitter lit up with posters condemning her for this “lack of respect” for her country. At times, it was vicious and certainly bullying. Fans came to her rescue with their own Tweets about all of her hard work to represent her country proudly, and about the fact that many do not put their hands on their hearts during the playing of the anthem. Ultimately, Gabby felt the need to post a Tweet explaining that this was not something she was taught to do but rather, to stand erect in silence instead. She then re-affirmed her patriotism and apologized if she had offended anyone. She was the bigger person, and Twitter has rewarded her for it now.

Athletes are a special breed. They represent courage, commitment, belief in selves, and amazing sacrifices. Yet all of us have the potential to do remarkable things (small or large) on a daily basis!

Featured photo credit: Javelin Thrower in Action at a Competition via flickr.com

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

2. Pace Yourself

Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

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Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

3. You Can’t Please Everyone

“I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

6. It’s Not All About You

You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

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It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

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Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

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Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

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