The short answer is “Yes. Yes I did.” The question: Did I watch any of the Olympics?
I need to stick to the short answer because once I get talking, I get pretty animated. The Canadian medal winners. The swimmer from Tunisia. The double gold in high jump. The upsets on the tennis courts. The … you get the picture. I was an ardent viewer. Until I couldn’t be any longer. Let me explain.
In early August I flew out to my mom’s place in Abbotsford, B.C. to assist with a move. All was well on Olympic Day 12 and Day 13 but then came Day 14. In preparation for her move, my mom had arranged for her TV to be cut off on Aug. 6. That didn’t mean 11:59 that night as I hoped, but rather 12:01 that morning; a reality I didn’t discover until I tried to tune in to watch the end of the women’s gold medal soccer game.
I had been checking my phone periodically for updates but since my mom didn’t have Wi-Fi I was using it sparingly, growing increasingly restless wondering what the outcome was since Canada was down 1-0. She turned on the radio and we were informed that Canada had tied the game. I had to get back to watching on my phone. Then – and I swear I am not exaggerating – just as the announcer said we were going into a shootout, I got a message saying I had reached my data limit and would now be paying for each moment of usage.
I shut the game down and texted my husband who was still in Saskatchewan to send an update when the game ended. His return text: turn the game back on!
We watched the thrilling shootout as Canada captured gold. While I broke out in an appropriate round of cheers, it was one of those moments (and there were many) that the lack of spectators in the stands became very apparent.
Yet we know that while athletes like these certainly have moments that put them in front of raucous crowds, the work they put in to get to that point happens in much more subdued settings. They train, they sweat and they toil on their own with only the sounds of training partners and coaches filling the air. Whether it was medal winning performances, personal bests or performances that simply didn’t go as hoped, the work that led up to that was done without an audience.
Then again, that’s true for most of us. The true award comes in doing what you love for no other reason than doing what you love.
The time artists spend interacting with enthusiasts or potential clients is a small percentage compared to time spent in their studios creating their work. Those who run a business know that the hours you are open to customers represent a fraction of the time it takes to operate a business successfully. So much is done that nobody sees or understands.
The Paralympics have now begun, featuring 22 sports and more than 4,000 athletes. The world's media spotlight won't cast near as far as it did earlier this month and that is a shame. But whether the cameras or the crowds are there or not, the passion for their sport remains the same. As it should for all of us no matter what we are pursuing. Because when the athlete stumbles, when the artist hits a creative block or when the business has a bad quarter, that's when they have to dig deep and figure out how to get up and keep going.
The work that needs to happen isn't entertaining and certainly wouldn't draw a crowd, but it is truly where the lines are drawn and the potential for achievement is determined.
While bright lights and big followings might be the result for some as they pursue their goals, the work that got them there took place far from the spotlight and in the silence of their own pursuit. Only they know the full level of pain, heartache, thrill and accomplishment that comes with going after what those dreams and goals require.
Whether someone is an Olympian, a painter, office manager, poet or anything else that they choose to pursue, finding fulfillment in what they set as goals needs to be about more than the end result because awards and titles are fleeting. Think about how much more satisfying it would be if we made it less about the outcome and more about the effort. That's my outlook.