As many of the world's finest athletes gather to compete at the Winter Olympics now underway in Pyeongchang, South Korea, all eyes are steadfast upon them. The Olympics represent many values to people worldwide, notably high performance tied to health, well being and discipline. Here we take a closer look at some of the lessons we're learning from Winter Olympic athletes.
The Winter Olympics of 2018 offers more opportunities for showcasing and testing talent through more events than prior Olympics, ranging from downhill alpine skiing and snowboarding to free style skiing, figure skating and bobsled racing. There are many compelling athletes competing today. Team USA had the largest number of athletes competing in this year's event than any prior Olympics. Here are some lessons we're learning from these wonderful athletes.
Do what you love and love doing it.
When you do what you love, you bring an energy and enthusiasm that is invigorating and helps you push on further to achieve more and more. By choosing a pursuit that you excel at and enjoy doing, you can become better and perform at a world-class level. Many athletes choose to go into different professions after their sporting careers end. There is a time and place to do things. Knowing what you excel at and being able to seize opportunities when they come and apply yourself fully to doing it to the best of your ability, requires focus and commitment.
Watch Chloe Kim on YouTube land back to back 1080s and win Olympic Gold in the halfpipe final.
Be willing to sacrifice for the bigger win.
While a competitive event may range from a few minutes to a few hours at most, winning it takes a lot of preparation. Doing your best at anything requires a willingness to work hard and practice, again and again. To even qualify for the Olympics, an athlete has to win and compete at a higher level. This requires commitment and discipline. Well trained athletes eat, sleep and live their sport. This drives how many hours they sleep, if they indulge in alcohol or any desserts, how much exercise they do every day and their mental and emotional training. It affects choices they make about vacations and other pursuits their friends and families may be doing that they will need to give up in order to keep practicing and get closer to meeting their goals. Being able to work and train regardless of distractions, bad weather or indulgences, is key to athletic success. Winning takes sacrifice, commitment and discipline.
Approach success and failure with grace.
Not every competition results in a win. Olympic athletes can spend the entire prior four years preparing for their events and still lose or fail to achieve the goals they had set. Being able to enjoy the process regardless of whether you win or not, is important. Olympic athletes constantly demonstrate that they are more than just winners of sport competitions through their resilience and character. Big moments can be exhilarating and also stressful. American snowboarder Shaun White has seen both exhilarating successes such as his perfect score at the X Games in Aspen in 2012 and most recently again at the X Games in 2018 where he qualified for his fourth Olympics and also failure where he did not win any medals at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Being able to stay steady under extremes and learn from ups and downs takes fortitude and grace.
Last night, Shaun enjoyed hard-won redemption with his final run, winning Olympic Gold for the third time. Watch on YouTube.
Fail, get up and try again.
Nowhere is resilience more evident than when you see an athlete repeatedly pursue goals despite failures and setbacks. A great example of this is American skier Lindsey Vonn who has won Olympic medals, World Cup medals and others and is the most successful American ski racer in history. She has suffered painful crashes and injuries, and overcome them to continue to compete again and win! Her remarkable strength is inspiring and powerful. Failure is undoubtedly an integral part of success and part of the journey to victory.
Most recently during the surprise upset at the Super Bowl where the Philadelphia Eagles soared to victory, quarterback Nick Foles also said some inspiring words about embracing failure.
Do your best at every opportunity.
Olympic athletes push themselves to do their best. They are known for pushing themselves and practicing to develop their skills at the highest level possible and perform at their best. Chloe Kim, an American snowboarder, who just won her first Olympic gold medal, epitomizes this. Even if she is joking around with her fellow athletes prior to competing, when it is her turn, she is completely focused and ready to engage. At 17, Chloe has joined a shortlisted group of athletes worldwide who have won their first Olympic medal before the age of 20. She's just getting started!
Work hard and tap in deeper into your talent.
Mikhaela Shiffrin was the youngest slalom champion in Olympic alpine skiing history at 18 years old in Sochi in 2014. Now she's returned to the Olympics after numerous World Cup wins and is the reigning Olympic and World Cup champion in slalom. Since her debut in 2014, Mikhaela has expanded her range, competing in different and challenging events that are new for her. She's consistently shown high performance, strong work ethic and remarkable talent, so much that former Olympian and alpine skier Bode Miller has said, "I think she's maybe the best ski racer I've ever seen, male or female."
Training for the Olympics requires funding and not everyone can afford that. While some athletes can and others have wonderful parents who give up their careers to help their kids achieve their dreams, that is not possible for everyone.
Some athletes demonstrate a high level of commitment and caring beyond themselves. An example of this is snowboarder Jamie Anderson, who also just won Olympic gold, who set up a foundation to sponsor equipment, season passes and travel for young winter sports athletes.
Live fully and celebrate passion.
The 2018 Olympics slogan is "Passion. Connected." This is evident in the athletes competing and the audiences that have gathered to support and cheer them on! Passion is essential for achieving anything at a higher level.
On a last note, the Olympics represent much more than winning medals - they demonstrate human commitment, energy, grace, endurance and focus under pressure. There's a lot we can learn from the Olympic Games and from the compelling stories of individual athletes. You can watch the Olympics live at NBC here.