Friday, August 10, 2012

Three Fewer Steps

Usain Bolt is incredible. Yesterday, he won his fourth Olympic Gold in either of the two sprint races in the games. He dominated so thoroughly that he was able to pull up a bit at the end, a move that brought renewed calls of showboating from many. But those criticisms don't stop him from being arguably the greatest sprinter of all time.

One of Bolt's countrymen finished with the silver. His name is Yohan Blake, and Bolt himself named him the Beast because of his incredible work ethic. This work ethic has made him second best sprinter on the planet. But he isn't the best. He isn't because Bolt is, and Bolt is because he has the most natural athletic ability of any sprinter by a fair margin.

This is an excellent reminder for the folks who think their hard work, and their hard work alone, is the reason for their success. Talent in sports is pretty similar to advantage in life. Advantage - be it economic, educational, social, etc. - endows its possessor with an ability to either work less to achieve the same or to work equally hard and achieve more.

One of the facts NBC talked about during their coverage was that Bolt takes 41 strides in the 100 while almost all his competitors take 44. Those three fewer steps matter. In life, those three fewer steps might be a better school, or smarter parents, or a safer community, or any number of things. It is important for all of us to remember that we all owe some part of our successes to forces outside our control. We should always try to work to be the Beast, but we have to recognize that there is a little Bolt in every victory.

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