I thought about not watching the Olympics this year. For about a day. And then I joined the rest of my family watching and cheering and not sleeping. As I watched the swimming, race after race, I began to see some applications for even non-swimmers.
1.Your performance does affect the team. Relay races depend on each of four people doing their best. On most of the teams were people who have only medaled as part of relay teams. They aren’t stars, but they are essential…and they get to wear the medals, too.
In a relationship, in a family, in a small group, in a work team…whatever your group, your good days and bad days affect the whole group. They may love you and help you through, as you will do with them, but the performance of the team will be influenced.
2. The turns are part of the race. In several races, the lead changed when the swimmers turned at the end of the pool. It’s possible that one swimmer was great at swimming but hadn’t paid attention to everything that is part of the race. For every race longer than 50 meters, a swimmer will have to turn.
There are parts of every job, of every role that are NOT the fancy part. If we don’t pay attention to learning the turns, the unflashy part, we are limited to sprints. And there aren’t many sprints in life.
3.Drifting adds distance. Moving from side to side in the lane makes the race longer. It wastes energy. It put the swimmer in danger of getting tangled in the lane divider.
When I begin to wander in my thinking, in my writing, in my working, the same thing happens to me. I end up getting tangled in the edges of the lane, in the boundaries.
4.To finish the race you have to touch the end of the pool. Several races ended with very close finished. One-onehundreth of a second is all that separate first and second place in at least two of the races. No matter the margin however, no matter the distance, the race isn’t done until someone touches the end of the pool.
I love to start, I hate to finish. But unless I complete the task, I end up floundering around the pool.
5. Keeping track of your strokes makes the ends graceful. You want to have your hand end the race touching the end of the pool. You want your hand to touch at the end of a stroke, with a slight glide rather than in the middle of a stroke. Truth is, if you don’t time it right, your head slams into the end of the pool rather than your hand touching. The way to end up right is to learn the basics and to keep track of where they take you.
I often don’t keep track of how long tasks take. I don’t keep track of where I am in relation to the rest of the pool. I don’t practice the core activities of my profession, of my relationships enough to know where I am. And then I wonder why I keep hitting my head.
6. False starts.
7. In every final, five people don’t win medals. We focus on the winner. We feel bad when someone wins without setting a new record of some sort. World records. Olympic records. Country records. All of these are wonderful, but we also watched the irony of someone passing the old world record and ending up in second or third place.
But what counts in the race? The medal matters. But what about personal bests? What about best finish in spite of personal difficulties? What about finishing? Showing up matters, even if there isn’t a spotlight
8. Everyone decides to race at a different time in their life. But everyone decides to race. Some of the swimmers have done this forever. Some haven’t. Some have started and stopped, have taken time off. Others love swimming more than anything. But everyone there at some point decided to be there.
I can waver. I can consider options. I can weigh options. But at some point, if I’m going to race, I have to decide to race. Or write. Or care.
What have you learned during the past week?
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(photo courtesy: Andrew Swanson)