Every four years we have an opportunity to put our worldly differences aside and realize the people of the world are actually more similar than we are different. There are many inspirational stories from around the world that we can learn some great lessons. From overcoming insurmountable personal odds with never quit determination, to competing and giving it all you have even though there is no chance of coming close to medaling, the Olympics teaches us things about the human species. Some of these lessons are listed below:
1. Humility: You may think you are a fast swimmer or runner. During the Olympics, you quickly realize that in the local pool you may dominate, but if you were swimming against Katie Ladecky you would get lapped in a 100m swim. Or if you are running a 400m run, learning that your time is the same time that these Olympians are doing their 800m runs in is very humbling. Bill Murray recently stated that the average Joe should be placed in each event in order to show reference to just how remarkable these athletic achievements have become.
2. Perseverance: What happens if you are an athlete in a war torn country? For the first time ever refugees created their own team from countries like Syria, Sudan, The Congo, and other countries of political strife or war. Becoming an Olympian caliber athlete was not the toughest thing these people have overcome in their lives. Living in a refugee camp in Kenya or crossing the Mediterranean Sea in a raft were just a few of the things these athletes were willing to do to escape the wars in their homelands. Organizing themselves into a team took persistence and a never quit attitude.
3. Never Too Old: Did you know there are athletes between the ages of 50-70 at the Rio Olympics? Athletes honing their craft and keeping their passion burning for multiple Olympics in events like Archery, Shooting, and Equestrian is outstanding to unthinkable. However, athletes in their late thirties and forties competing in sports such as Gymnastics, Volleyball, Soccer, Track and Field, and Swimming is incredible. Winning gold at this age is unbelievable! Kristin Armstrong , a 42-year old American cyclist, won gold in her third Olympics in the Time Trial event. Also, Uzbekistan Oksana Chusovitina gymnast at the age of 41 (her children are older than her competitors) has competed in her seventh Olympics and almost medaled, placing 4th in the vault event.
4. Passionate Determination: If you have a passion, but no coach, equipment, or track team -- NO WORRIES. Build your own and watch youtube.com to learn how to perfect your craft of javelin throwing as Julius Yego of Kenya did. Julius became the World Champion and the first Kenyan to ever qualify for the Olympics in a Field Event in Track. He is likely to win gold as the favorite in that event.
5. The Greatest of All Time: You cannot talk about the Rio 2016 Olympics and not mention Michael Phelps, who now sports 28 medals throughout his Olympic career. Starting his first Olympics as a young kid of 15 years old, we watched him grow into a young champion, fight the demons that often follow youthful celebrity, and rise up after hitting rock bottom. Seeing him evolve into a happy, fulfilled Father of a newborn boy shows us all that life is tough, but in the end it is all about family and those close to you, if you are seeking true happiness.
6. New Champion Confidence: Having self-confidence in our own abilities and the qualities that make us unique is a skill we all can use. Our self-worth is one of the things that helps us move to the next level in whatever we do in life. Take Simone Biles for instance. She won the Women's Gymnastics Gold for the Best All Round Gymnast Competition. She could leave the Olympics with as many as five gold medals and was asked if she was the next Michael Phelps of gymnastics. She smiled and said, 'No, I am the first Simone Biles.' That is confidence -- not arrogance. You do not become the best at something without confidence.
7. Finding Your Way Again: Sometimes life has a way of hitting you hard below the belt and you can lose your way for a few years -- maybe even decades. Swimmer Anthony Ervin won gold as a teenager in the Sydney 2000 Olympics. He spent his 20's and half his 30's with no direction, gave up swimming, and travelled the world earning just enough money to live on by odd jobs. Then he made the Olympic Team again in 2012 and 2016, claiming gold again in the 50m Sprint this week -- sixteen years after his first Olympic race.
8. Finally – Security: No matter why you choose to travel, you should have a solid grasp of where you are going and places you should avoid. Gathering as much intel about your destination and the area surrounding it is just the basics. That the world is a different place after September 11, 2001 (especially if you are American), is something you should never forget, as complacency could find you prey to common criminals or God-forbid, a terrorist attack. There is a reason why the Olympic Committees over the past 15 years have a security budget of a small Army. As much as we should celebrate our similarities as a human species through events like the Olympics, forgetting that there are people in the world that want to kill you because of your religion or what country you are from is careless. Keep your head on a swivel and have an emergency plan no matter where you are.