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How to Win

You Against Yourself

“They can because they think they can.” (The Aeneid) — Virgil

Today my wife and I leave (courtesy of a Christmas gift from daughter Katie) for a weekend in Lake Placid, N.Y., to witness the 2009 World Luge Championships. Many of the athletes we see will be competing in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia.  There will be more in later posts on why these athletes are the best in the world at what they do.

In the meantime, if you ever get a chance to visit Lake Placid, you will find yourself inspired. It is the prefect metaphor for everyone with a dream to be a champion: though tiny, it has found greatness.

Most people remember Lake Placid for the 1980 U.S. men’s Olympic ice hockey gold medal. But in that same Olympics, Eric Heiden won five speed-skating gold medals, in events ranging from sprint all the way to marathon. That is a peak-performance story in itself, for another time.

As for now, my wife will be looking forward to re-visiting the ski jump, where four years ago we witnessed a competition of the Olympic facility. The mother of one of the athletes offered an insight into sports as spectacular as the surrounding scenery:

“The ski jump is you against yourself. Only you can let go and decide to go down the mountain.”

And it’s true! When you take the elevator to the top of the ski jump, and gaze down the slope and into the valley beyond, you are breathing different air. You get a sense of danger and of alien territory. It takes something very special to let go and charge down in search of great speed and distance.

But in a way, all of sports — and life — is a contest against the self. Just as a ski jumper must decide to let go, only you can answer these questions in your own life:

*Are you going to hold back or go all out?
Are you going to choose comfort or growth?
Are you going to rise above your circumstances or are you going to let your circumstances define you?

Those are questions we’ll be exploring in the Adirondacks this weekend.


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