Recently, when the Olympics was on, Piers Morgan wrote an article about how ‘coming second doesn’t count’.
Now I don’t pay much attention to Piers normally, I follow him on Twitter, I chuckle at his banter with Lord Sugar, and that’s about it really. But I read his article (you can find it here) and I thought “you know what, I actually agree with that”.
And then two things happened that have made me realise it’s absolute horse-shit.
1. My lovely friend Sally Conway won a Bronze medal in the Judo at the Rio Olympics. Now, I’ve known Sally for around about 3 years so I’m a relative newcomer to her ‘career’. But she is without a doubt one of the nicest, kindest, hardest working people I have ever met. I couldn’t watch her bronze medal fight and instead hid in the kitchen with the TV on mute while it was on because I was so nervous for her. Because I knew how much it meant to her. As did everyone who has ever crossed paths with Sally. There was no one more deserving of that medal than her. Yes, of course, had she won Gold it would’ve eclipsed everything else. I’m sure she went to the Olympics to win Gold. But winning Bronze doesn’t make her any less of an athlete. It doesn’t make us any less proud of her. She is incredible. And when people like Piers Morgan try to suggest that in Sport “if you don’t win you lose” they somewhat diminish all the hard work that every single athlete, at whatever level, puts in day in day out.
2. I came 3rd in my event this weekend. Yes, 3rd. Not 1st, not 2nd, but 3rd. And I absolutely couldn’t be happier. Before Saturday my highest finish was 8th. I have achieved 8th place twice this year and even that was something I didn’t anticipate would happen. So to achieve 3rd was a confirmation that all my hard work has been for ‘something’. The feeling when I crossed the finish line was incredible. My children thought it was the best thing ever. And it was. I’m still on cloud 9 and I’m probably not going to stop talking about it for a while (sorry in advance).
I actually take real exception to the fact that someone would suggest that I, or anyone else for that matter, has ‘underachieved’ by winning Silver or Bronze, or by coming in 2nd, 3rd, 8th or 38th place.
Now don’t get me wrong – coming 1st is the ‘dream’. Nobody ever sets out to fail. And for me even more so now that I have been 3rd. I want to get better, I want to achieve better, I want to push myself. Becasue that’s who I am, that’s the drive that I have. But equally, if I don’t ever podium higher than 3rd, or if I never podium again in fact I have in no way under achieved. I have in no way fallen into a ‘middle ground’ of ‘just doing my best’.
Striving to be the best is not a bad thing. It’s what makes the great athletes great after all. But teaching our kids and convincing ourselves that coming first is the only way to succeed is wrong.
The only way to succeed is to strive to be the best that you can be. By constantly working towards your own goals, your own dreams, your own personal achievements. That is what defines success, that is what defines greatness.
There will always be someone who breaks the boundaries of ‘great’. Michael Phelps, Ussain Bolt, Mo Farrah, Laura Trott. All examples of absolutely outstandingly great athletes and Olympians. Michael Jordan, Ronaldo – again, they have done things no one thought to be possible. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that each weekend when I race I am the best that I can be at that given moment. It doesn’t make me a loser or anyone else out there a loser.
And that is what we should all be striving for. To be best that we can be at any given point. You can be whatever you want to be. You can do whatever you want to do. Hard work, consistency and belief. Those three things will take you anywhere you want to go. The only competition we have is ourselves after all.