a unique perspective on this crazy world

I’m sure watching so much Olympic coverage is doing nothing for helping me reach MY potential but it has definitely provided lots to think about.  Just finished watching the Canadian women’s soccer (football) team go to the semi-final for the first time – after beating Great Britain on home turf.  Very exciting!  Especially now that I know a little about the game so can appreciate the skills more.  They face the USA in the semi-final.  Definitely dicey but one of the delightful things about the Olympics is the element of surprise.


Which is why I am bored with Michael Phelps.  I feel a bit guilty.  I would never try to belittle his accomplishments.  I never watched anything from the 2008 Olympics because I was working at a level to rival any Olympic athlete’s training schedule.  So I only heard about the most decorated Olympian of all time once he was so famous everyone knew about him, whether you wanted to or not 🙂

That’s the thing.  He’s become so famous it’s become a bit tacky… and kind of boring.  I am far more impressed with everyone else in the pool who has been so successful in challenging him.  Obviously he has trained hard and is an incredible athlete but the commentators seem to have forgotten there is anyone else in the pool.  Yes, the gold medal is impressive but seriously, getting to the top three, even the top five, is a wild achievement and deserves a lot more attention than it gets.

Yet another example of how the media and the public seems to feel the twitter version of the world surpasses The Economist version of the world.  Sorry, people, but you are wrong.  You are missing so many points and illustrating the limited potential most human beings realize.  Because trying hard just seems like too much work.

There is a lot to reflect on when you watch the Olympics.  The irony that the Americans lead in gold medals and show a level of fitness that is world class while average Americans are shooting to lead the world in obesity and Type II diabetes.  The fact that over 200 countries come to the Olympics but most of the medals are won by a handful of rich countries with the resources to finance gold medals in the high technology 21st century.  The pity that only a small handful of athletes and sports will get prime time coverage and be celebrated on the world stage in a way that the Olympics is supposed to honour.

We all have to find our own perspective when we look at the world.  I think it might be partly my Canadian upbringing.  I love a self-deprecating sense of humour.  I love an underdog.  I love a smart analysis.

So one of the most interesting things I have heard so far in Olympic commentary was the comment how impressive it was that Chad le Clos was less than one quarter of a second behind Michael Phelps given le Clos’ lack of freakish genetics that would make him part fish-part man and highly adapted to swimming.

That’s the problem with just watching on the simple “who won the gold medal” level.  It’s all so much more complex.  First, the difference between the top five is normally less than a second or a point.  They are all exceptional and only occasionally is the gold medal winner much better than the silver on any real human scale.  And some are genetically lucky – or their country has more cash – or more interest in promoting their sport.  If they really wanted it all to reflect the ideals they pretend it does, they would handicap everyone to even the playing field.  Points would be deducted for genetic or economic advantage so that it would all reflect the training and effort of the athlete irrespective of the parentage or the country of birth.

Of course, nothing works like that.  And a few have written about Chad le Clos.  Good on them.  And apparently Michael Phelps was his hero.  And inspired lots of young swimmers.  So, maybe I am a little bored with Phelps – and would like to hear more about everyone else in the pool.  My heart goes out to Ryan Lochte, such an impressive swimmer and an engaging guy, but with the misfortune of being born to be in the shadow of Phelps.  But Phelps is an impressive guy and definitely deserves his celebrity a lot more than Snookie!

And more than the Royals.  Apparently if you are a member of the royal family and go to watch an Olympic game match you are a hero.  Seriously???  You don’t have a proper job and it is the least you can do to go out and support the athletes from your country.  In the best seats in the house.  I think there would be a long line who would be willing to do your “job” if it isn’t working for you.  Lucky genes with almost nothing else.  All you have to do is not act like a total jackass and you get accolades.  If only life was so lucky for the rest of us… 😉

But wouldn’t that be dull.  Personally I take my motivation from Chad and Ryan and the Canadian women’s soccer team.  From the less celebrated and more mortal who achieve astonishing feats.  One of my favourite medals these games was Brent Hayden winning a bronze in the 100m freestyle.  Big in Canada but no doubt ignored by the world.  But he didn’t make it to the finals in 2008 and this was his last Olympics.  And he made the podium!  He seemed so pleased and with such a great attitude about it all.

The message we should all be taking away from the Olympics, I think.  Sure, it’s mind-blowing the crap these competitive athletes will go through for a few minutes of glory.  And one should be respectful of their dedication and stamina – both mental and physical.  But in that greater arena we call life, are they any better than the rest of us?  Or are some of them worse?

My gold medal goes to people who make the world a better place.  It’s impossible to measure – even with handicapping.  If they get lucky, it will be acknowledged in the speeches and conversations at their funeral.  But by then, they will be dead…

So the way I measure the value of my life – and whether I am on track with my goals – is whether I seem to make other people happy, whether I am a positive influence, whether I remember to act and promote the concept of civilization.

Civilization, the golden rule and the simple message of “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you” will save the world and is the criteria on which we should all be judged – Olympic athletes or not.  We can all realize our potential to be someone who has the greatest positive impact on the world of which we are capable – and if we do that – every day – we will deserve our gold medal.  There will be no ceremony but it’s the one that really counts.

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