Watching the Olympians is more than entertaining. It’s awe-inspiring, nerve wracking, breath taking and more. The commitment and skill level of these athletes is almost inconceivable. There’s no question that each one is ‘all in’. That’s probably why we respond so strongly to their successes and failures. When they falter we feel their pain. Their tears, expressions of agony, awareness of disappointed parents, siblings, coaches and communities, are all too apparent. We also share in their victories, watching proudly when they stand on the podium to receive their medals. Winning is certainly more fun than losing, but the truth is that both are an equally important part of the journey. For these folks, and for the rest of us, what is difficult to see when in the midst of it all, is that an experience, even one of this magnitude, is only one chapter—an important one, but only one.
One evening in between events a gentleman by the name of Paul Norton “Pete” McCloskey Jr. was interviewed because he had fought in Korea where the Olympics are being held. Notable accomplishments of Pete: he graduated from Stanford with a law degree; served in the Korean War as a member of the United States Marine Corps. and was awarded the Navy Cross and the Silver Star; won the election to the House of Representatives in 1967, defeating Shirley Temple in the Republican primary; challenged President Richard Nixon in the 1972 Republican primaries; continually won re-election until 1982; in 1989 co-founded the Council for the National Interest; and has written two books. These are only some of the many chapters in Pete’s life, all of which—successes and failures—worked together to define and mold him into whom he would become and continue to be. Pete, now ninety, works everyday on his vineyard in California.
I think there is a lesson here for us all. While we often can’t help getting caught up in the moment, whether good or bad, that moment is not the sum total of who we are or who we will become. We are much more than a single victory or defeat and neither should ever totally define us. Perhaps keeping this perspective is the secret of a real champion, no matter what the wins and losses have been.