Rio Gold: Words on Winning


Winning is showing up, staying present in our truth, and leaning into love every step of the way.

Did anyone besides me watch the Olympic Opening Ceremony last Friday night? Well, despite apparent low network ratings (38% down from 2012’s London Ceremony), and a self-proclaimed nervy and “slow” catwalk strut delivered by the ever leggy and lovely Brazilian bombshell, Gisele Bündchen, I was totally mesmerized.  The grand parade of nations proudly flying their flags, donning those thoughtfully designed and crafted costumes, one after another, oozed a colorful and unmasked joy that was completely contagious; that buzzy energy, palpable.

I think I even caught North Korea crack a smile or two!  After hours of sitting on the couch glued to NBC, I breathed a deep and victorious breath, finished my second dinner of popcorn and dark chocolate, and wiped off the mascara stained tears tattooed on my cheeks, calling it a day.  You would have thought I had just beat out Katie Ledecky in the 400 meter freestyle. Nope, swimming was never my thing… couldn’t get the breathing down.


I digress.  Suffice it to say, the Olympic games have been something of a teacher for me this past week.  Though I have not gotten to watch much of the actual games, I have been fascinated to hear about and read the highlights, perhaps even grabbing online recaps during breaks throughout the day.  Why on earth am I so obsessed?  I mean, I’ve been watching the Olympics since I was a kid!?  What makes this go-round so special?  What is it about a bunch of diverse people getting together to play sports that has our modern world in a state of, well, grace?

I am a total sucker for story and a big believer in the human spirit, against all odds.  Not only that, I was simply overwhelmed and moved to tears hearing the backstory and obstacles overcome by individuals and nations alike as I witnessed the globe pouring into Rio’s Olympic Stadium last Friday night.  Perhaps the constant barrage of global hate crimes and terrorism begs for a different voice; one of hope and generosity.  Or maybe I’m just getting old and sappy; more skin in the game, perhaps?  I don’t know…


I hear a simple truth reverberate loud and clear within each and every athletes story as I follow the 2016 games. It’s clear as a bell.  I see it on hallowed risers as medals are placed on those well-deserving, chiseled bodies.  I see it when the tears flow steadily and uncontrollably down winners’ faces, exhausted and delirious, yet more present than ever.  I hear it perhaps the loudest when the bright and hopeful stars of tomorrow don’t make the cut for whatever reason, falling with devastation and disappointment into the arms of their lifetime advocates, coaches, and teammates.


The journey of greatness is one of presence, engagement.  It is made up of thousands of weeks, hundreds of thousands of days and practices, millions of hours, and countless decisions; all kissed by unmistakeable failure, heartache, waiting, sometimes bliss.  The bleeding heart pushing it all forward, day after grueling day is quite simply…Belief.

Though separated by culture, creed, economy, language, religion, and politic, there is a universal force that unites us all: Belief.

Sure, you can hire the best coach money can buy and crystallize a flawless strategy, yet without a mindset of belief in our core value and worth, we are stymied by self-doubt, never leaving the gate.

Digging even deeper, I can guarantee most, if not every single Olympian, experiences seasons of total unbelief.  I imagine depression, loneliness, injury, and discouragement often taint this less than hopeful view.  You don’t have to be a world-class athlete to dance with those demons; we’ve all been there.  Those are times we lean heavily on the belief of others.  Whethercoaches, teammates, loved ones, and/or counselors; those steady and loving mirrors bolster the unwavering belief we need until we are able to embrace that reality for ourselves.   


Who are the people in your court who know you, see you, and speak the same language of belief, no matter what? They use the same currency of hopes and dreams?  They live in the same state of vulnerability and presence, risky as it may feel?  Even on defeated days, they see the winner that becomes you.   If I have learned anything in this life, it is the incomparable value of trusted relationship and community that make bitter days a bit sweeter.   I’m a big believer in quality over quantity.  Having three to five fiercely committed teammates feels stronger and more sincere than 25.  It’s more difficult to intentionally nurture the masses, however, I suppose it can be done, especially by all you extroverts out there. 

I saw this quote on a friend’s Instagram yesterday: “Winners focus on winning.  Losers focus on winners.”  Wow. That’s it!  The picture displayed above accompanied the quote and paints a hauntingly true picture of that tragic dynamic.  Whatever the challenge, whatever the task at hand; I am learning the importance of presence, not perfection (Thank you Shauna Niequist!), and the pursuit of belief, not comparison. Winning goes far beyond a gold medal.  Winning is showing up, staying present in our truth, and leaning into love every step of the way.