Everyone who watched the devastating fall of Morgan Uceny in the 1500-meter final was probably reminded of a time when they themselves felt shamed, low and completely defeated on some level. However painful to see, accidents or mistakes during a major competition such as the Olympic Games can teach us important lessons in life, though they are not always what we would expect.
The following is some food for thought to inspire us all to think beyond our knee-jerk reaction and rise above an average response when we see a passionate desire to win fatally crushed in the heart of a defeated athlete.
Bravery is the soul of surrender
When years and years of preparation are saturated with hard work and the hope for the acknowledgement of being the best in the world, the pressure to come out on top is immense. One small error, a millisecond on the time clock, or a stroke of bad luck can violently tear out and trample to the ground every last bit of courage, even in the bravest of people.
To scowl at Uceny for not getting up and finishing the race is to not understand that, while the human spirit is triumphant, sometimes the will to surrender and accept defeat is a greater, and much better choice.
Morgan Uceny could have finished the race, but for whom? For those of us who saw the race from the comfort of our living room so we could have some closure that would assuage our sympathy?
Sure, finishing the race would have been a courageous move, and probably would have satisfied many spectators. But, to walk away from a dream with empty hands and a broken heart takes more courage than most of us can even imagine. Surrendering to defeat and accepting failure is a mark of bravery, not cowardice.
Everyone feels fear, but heroes don't let it stop them
How many times have you avoided taking a risk because you were afraid to lose? For some, the fear of failing is enough to squelch progress, be it in work, sports, or relationships. Champions are made when effort is spent, even if the end result is not what we imagined.
Morgan Uceny fell and therefore didn't realize her dream of capturing the gold. Her hard work, including her defeat, far outshines those who never even tried, even if for her it might have been the worst moment of her life.
In every competition there are winners and there are losers, but the one thing that unites both factions, is fearless devotion to get into the game.
Next time you are terrified into paralysis because you are afraid to fall, think of those tireless athletes who gave their all despite the risks and reality of losing. Ask yourself if you can be as brave as they are to persevere in whatever endeavor, even if you know you might not come out ahead. Vincent Van Gogh once said, "What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?" If you don't have the courage, perhaps now you will be inspired to start something new by those who have shown you that it is possible.
No one is neither solely responsible for winning nor should be blamed fully for losing
To win is to be better than the competition, and to lose is to fall short of the competition. The fine line that sets winners and losers apart is based on a judgment, a score, a time, or some other form of strategic evaluation. Factors that define winners and losers, however, may vary. Time of day, amount of sleep, pre-competition anxiety, haunting memories, you name it, are all very dynamic elements that can contribute to the success or defeat in the final moment.
Anyone who clearly states that they gave it their best, despite winning or losing, is truly speaking from the heart. We all must remember it is likely there were factors out of their control playing a large role in their success or failure. Blaming someone for losing is as senseless as saying winning was due to pure effort and nothing else. Yes, hard work does pay off, there is no doubt about that, but luck, timing, and fluctuations in daily algorithms play a huge role as well, especially when it comes to a fraction of a second. To ignore that is to disregard the indescribable magic of each moment.
Next time you watch your favorite athlete compete, win, or be defeated, remember that bravery lies at the core of surrender, heroes forge on despite their fears, and life offers unique experiences that can change our path in an instant, no matter how hard we work. When we can grow to accept both success and failure as important life lessons, we will all come home with the gold.