Thinking Out Loud: the Olympics and What It Means to Be Great

I love the Olympics. I hate sports. But I love the Olympics. Maybe it’s the grandeur, the cultural aspect of it or the fact that it makes me feel proud to be an American.

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I appreciate a lot about the Olympics, but there’s something I’m reminded of every time I watch it. And that is this idea of what it means to be great.

I’ve been considering success and what it means to be great for a while now. What is great? Or rather, who is great?  I used to think the Kardashians were the epitome of success and greatness. Pretty, acclaimed, rich, famous, household names. That’s all it takes, right? But it doesn’t really, does it? Pretty, acclaimed, rich, famous, household names- that doesn’t really make someone great.

Greatness is an ideal that is totally subjective. Everyone sees the idea of greatness differently. For example, now I find Olympians to be the epitome of greatness, not the Kardashians.

Olympians are my idea of greatness because they are people who are capable of making the rest of us believe that we can achieve our dreams too. Most Olympic athletes don’t come from famous families who buy their ticket to the Games. Most Olympic athletes turn back into pumpkins after the Games. And there is something strangely comforting about that.

Consider this: an Olympic athlete could be shopping at your grocery store and you might not have ever known. Why? Because most of them appear just like the rest of us. Unless you’re a Michael Phelps character, the media won’t remember you after the Olympics and you’ll go back to training or decide that you want a different job and retire from your respective sport. But you’ll always have that medal you won. You’ll always know what that felt like, to be great.

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So I ask you: what does it mean to be great? The way I see it, greatness is not about money or fame or material things. It’s about the way you see yourself and what you’re doing with your life. Greatness can be understated. In fact, I think it’s far more attractive that way. If I’ve learned anything from the Olympics, it’s that greatness might be as simple as nailing a backflip in your floor routine. Not the acclaim that comes from having a winning backflip, just the sheer joy of knowing that you accomplished it. In the moment when it mattered, you did something you’ve been working for. At the end of the day, maybe greatness is just doing something that feels important to you, and makes other people feel good too.

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