I love watching the Olympics – it is literally thousands of people achieving their dreams. What can be better that? Many of them have worked years for little reward and with no expectation of a medal or massive sponsorships – but they had a dream just to be there, to compete with the best, to be one of the best. Then there’s those superstars, the ones that make us simply stare in astonishment. This year there were two in particular, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt and USA’s Michael Phelps. Astounding performances. But there’s also heartbreak and drama as well – China and Team Nutrilite’s Liu Xiang’s withdrawal from the men’s 100m hurdle being a classic example.
The Olympics bring with it mixed emotions for me however, because, like many, many thousands of people around the world, being an Olympian was my dream too. In my case, in the sport of rowing (“crew” for the American readers). The 2000 and 2004 Olympics in particular touched a nerve for me – in both years, guys I knew and used to compete with won silver medals in the event I would have aimed for, the men’s lightweight coxless fours … and they came second by the barest of margins. Like most elite level, competitive athletes, I like to believe that if I’d kept training I would been in that boat. Of course, the only way I could have done that is if I performed better than the guys who made that team – and that meant the boat would have gone faster. Only fractions of a second faster would have meant winning.
I could have won an Olympic Gold medal!
Well … in my dreams anyway! The reality is that there is a lot more involved to making an Olympic team than how good you might have been. There were probably dozens and dozens of people in my country who might have been better than the guys in those two crews. Why were those four there and guys like me weren’t?
They didn’t quit.
Those guys continued to train, day in, day out, month after month, getting up at 4:30am for years after I decided I enjoyed sleeping too much. 4-5hrs a day, 6-7 days a week. Year in, year out, in pursuit of their dream.
They didn’t quit, and I did. I quit. Hundreds quit. Around the world, tens of thousands of athletes that were good enough to be there, weren’t – because they quit, they weren’t willing to do what it took to get there.
It’s no different in many fields of endeavour, including the Amway business. Success generally takes years, and there’s lots of down times along the way. I initially quit rowing after my partner discovered he was an asthmatic – by having a severe attack in the middle of a race at the National Championships. I felt the best I ever had in a race, primed to perform, and here he was practically dying in front of me! Disheartening to say the least!
But there’s nothing unique about stories like that. I’m 100% certain that if you randomly picked any 10 athletes from the athlete’s village in Beijing last week, at least 9 of them could have told you worse stories that had them on the verge of quitting – but they didn’t.
Success in business is rarely any different. It usually takes years. Brian Tracy, in his book The 21 Success Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires reports that the average self-made millionaire has been bankrupt or close to bankrupt 3.2 times.
Years of persistence and hard work, rarely with much in the way of reward along the way. Years of obstacles and failures, and getting back up and keeping on going.
That’s what achieving success in any field is about. It’s why, out of all the young, talented athletes getting up early to train today, very, very few will go on to the Olympics. It’s why, out of all the small businesses being started around the world, very few will go on to be the big successes their founders dream of. It’s why, out of the tens of thousands of people that start an Amway business this month, very few will go on to be Platinums, Emeralds, and Diamonds or higher.
Today I have different dreams, including to setup a scholarship for young athletes whose families cannot afford to fully support them the way they would want, one of the challenges I had. Unlike with the dream of Mount Olympus, there’s no time limit though. Time takes it toll on our bodies whether we like it or not, as does too much time watching instead of participating! But the Amway business does not go away, and it doesn’t care about your age. And unlike the Olympics, there isn’t just one Gold medal. Anyone can be a Platinum, or an Emerald, or a Diamond, or even a Crown Ambassador. I’ve been in many deep valleys the past decade (stories for another day), but the Amway mountain stays there, waiting for me, and for anyone else who cares to climb it.
We just have to get up, keep learning, keep improving, keep climbing, keep going.
I’m told the view from the top is amazing.
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