I’ve written before about the remarkable resilience of my son. He’s the kid who always gives things a go and I am incredibly proud of his grit and willingness to put himself out there. It is one thing to go in the race when you are the kid who has a chance of coming first and quite another when you have no chance of winning at all (we salute you, Steven Bradbury).
I had this very conversation with a man on a plane once upon a time. He was travelling to Athens to meet up with his son who was competing in the Olympic Games. I remarked at how amazing I have always found elite athletes – their dedication, skills and determination to win. This man replied, “This is true. But to me there is something even more remarkable about the people who ran in all the races that my son ever ran in and never, not once, achieved a place. Yet every week they were back again to give it another go. It takes a certain kind of courage to keep on going even when it’s harder for you than it is for other people.”
Last year Max told me about a conversation he had had with one of the teachers at his school (his teacher this year, as it turns out). He had just competed in the 800m run (Max likes to go in every race he can) and he was lapped by all the other boys. He plodded on, received his hand clap home (our school is very nice like that) and was in recovery mode when Mrs B came over to congratulate him.
“A fine job, Max,” she said enthusiastically. “You should be proud of yourself today.”
“I got lapped,” Max puffed. “I always get lapped. There’s such a big gap between me and the other boys.”
“That’s actually not true,” Mrs B replied. “Because you’re forgetting something very, very important. See, when you run or swim in school races, it might look like there’s a big gap between you and the other boys, but there’s not.”
“How is a lap not a big gap?” Max asked incredulously.
“Well, what you’ve got to do when you run or swim, Max, is picture all the kids who could be out there, not just the ones who are. All the kids who are sitting on the sidelines watching the race, they are the kids who fill that gap. The only reason the gap is there, is because those kids don’t even have the confidence to go in the race in the first place.”
“So the gap isn’t that big?”
“There is no gap at all, Max. Just the shadows of the kids who are afraid to try. Remember to look for those shadows when you run – chase them down as you go.”
That’s the truth about losing: the only losers are the people who never try.
Do you let the gap stop you from trying?