The Olympic Games are always huge and serve as a reminder of two important things: people from different countries can come together and peacefully compete, and some people are so committed to their goals that they sacrifice in every way possible to reach them.
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Keeping that in your mind, here are eight amazing life lessons you can learn from some of the most remarkable athletes of the world today.
1. Your success isn’t yours alone
Argentine National Football Team Captain, Lionel Messi is widely considered the best soccer player to ever step out on the field, but life wasn’t always so great for him. As covered by the Bleacher Report, Messi was born to a family of modest means who could not afford the $900 treatment for his hormone growth deficiency.
Thanks to his talent, a local youth football league covered his treatment cost. This is not something the soccer player has forgotten, as it helped get him to where he is today.
Messi is an active supporter of AIDS and HIV research to help Haitian families, is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and has pledged $8 million dollars from his team in support of these efforts.
2. Fear can lead to failure
When Michael Jordan first tried out for his high school basketball team, he didn’t make the cut, and he was embarrassed every time he saw that final players’ list. Fear of enduring that embarrassment again could have resulted in him not trying out again, but instead, he worked even harder and eventually made the team.
When he first went pro, his team lost across the initial three seasons, but he again just worked even harder than he did before.
3. Talent without hard work is meaningless
Eugenie Bouchard, one of the youngest tennis players to be ranked internationally, did not receive strong support from her family when she first became interested in tennis. In fact, her family wasn’t really interested in sports at all, so she began playing tennis on her own when she was just five, her talent evident almost immediately.
By the time she reached the age of 12, her family got on board, and she moved with her mother to Florida so she could be coached by a pro.
Bouchard had a grueling training schedule, and it meant giving up a lot of things that teenage girls usually do. But today, she’s worth around $2 million dollars and still has a bright career of doing what she loves ahead of her.
4. Don’t measure success by comparing it to that of other people
Tiger Woods famously only had one major golfing goal: beat Jack Nicklaus’s record, which stood at 18 wins at major tournaments. This was his primary motivation, but he never considered his personal life becoming a distraction or the injuries he would have that would keep him off the circuit.
When he realized he could not beat Nicklaus’ record, some of his fire for the game went out. Once that happened, his performance started to decline, and he’s still struggling on his recent return to the game.
5. Love who you are
Serena Williams spent her childhood in the area of Compton, California, where she played tennis on public courts full of debris and practiced within earshot of gunshots.
From those beginnings, she became a major player on the biggest tennis stages of the world and a number one-ranked player.
Tennis, unfortunately, was not previously a very diverse sport, so when Serena and her sister Venus entered the professional scene, they were not warmly received. When they began winning, they were viewed by some in the tennis world as interlopers.
Despite this, the sisters persevered and continued to be who they were, never trying to change themselves to please the tennis crowd in any way.
Today, they are far more accepted and respected in the tennis world than they were when they first started, and they never had to change a thing about themselves as people to achieve that.
6. Be willing to let things go
When Lebron James announced he was going to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers and join the Miami Heat instead, Cavaliers owner, Dan Gilbert wrote a harsh public letter in which he labeled James a traitor to Cleveland, his hometown.
But James had grown up in the city and was always open about his love for Cleveland.
Gilbert knew he needed to have James on the Cavaliers, so he flew to Florida, spoke to James and apologized for his harsh words.
The two reconciled and James came back to Cleveland, with the rest now being championship history.
Cleveland hasn’t always had the greatest reputation, but the Cavalier’s performance over the years is helping to change that.
7. Mountains don’t wear you out—it’s the pebbles gathering in your shoes
This is a sentiment from boxer and philosopher, Muhammad Ali. The lesson here is to take a breather every so often and let go the small things that are slowing you down, such as guilt, bad habits, and past resentments.
When you address and resolve all those little things, you can move forward without all that baggage and go after the bigger things – your “mountains.”
8. Apologizing is sometimes necessary
While the Olympics always brings amazing athleticism and wonderful events, there are usually controversies, too. One such controversy in Rio involved Gabby Douglass, a member of the US women’s gymnastics team.
When the team received their gold medals, the National Anthem was played in accordance with accepted tradition. Douglass did not put her hand on her heart, as is the usual custom. Immediately, there were posts all over social media that condemned what was perceived as a “lack of respect” for her country, and it soon became vicious and bullying in tone.
Douglass’ fans then chimed in, posting about all the work she had done to proudly represent her country and stating that many people do not put their hands on their hearts when the anthem plays.
In the end, Douglass decided to post a Tweet that explained she was not taught to put her hand over her heart but to stand straight and tall in silence instead.
She restated her love for the US and apologized to those who took offense. Douglass was the bigger person here, and her actions ultimately ended the entire thing.
Athletes are a breed all of their own, representing sacrifice, commitment, courage and a strong, unwavering belief in themselves.
But all people have the potential to do wonderful things, big or small, and the life lessons above can help you get onto the path to true success and fulfillment in your life.