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How to be a Winner (if you aren't planning to compete in the Olympics)

Okay. We need to clear the air on something. I’m sure by now you’ve seen the meme going around with Michael Phelps and Chad Le Clos in the 200m Butterfly Final in Rio. In the last few meters of the race, Phelps stares dead ahead while Le Clos looks over in desperation at his opponent surging to the finish. The meme reads, “Winners focus on winning. Losers focus on winners.”


I get the point: Focus on your own goals/tasks/progress/whatever; Don’t get distracted by what others are doing.   There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. I encourage the same thinking with all my clients. But while that may be what we’re to imply from the meme, that’s not what it actually says.

What it says in no uncertain terms is that Le Clos, who fell behind to the greatest swimmer and most decorated Olympian of all time, is a loser. You may be a former world champion and decorated Olympian in your own right, but if you’re not a winner, you’re a loser.

To put it another way, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” - Ricky Bobby

That’s where I’m calling BS.

Le Clos didn’t lose the race because of a momentary glance at an opponent. He didn’t lose because of a lack of focus. He didn’t lose because his attention wasn’t centered on winning. He lost because he was pitted against the best athlete in the world performing at the peak of his potential. We may love a good underdog story, but this Goliath was always gonna beat David.  

And losing this race doesn’t make Le Clos a loser.

You may have seen this meme and thought, “yeah! I’m totally gonna refocus my training and kick butt.” And if that’s the case, I applaud you. But many saw this meme and thought, “I can’t keep up with the other guys no matter how hard I focus. What’s the point of trying? I don’t want to be a loser.”

If you’re like me and you’re training to maintain your health, to get stronger, to stay active, and to be able to do what you want to do, there are no Olympics. There are no gold medals. You will win some workouts and you will lose some. You will perform better than expected and you will fall short of expectations. You will have laser-beam focus some days and ADD others. And while the bad days and momentary failures may sting, they really don’t matter. The only thing that matters is that you keep showing up. No matter what happens, show up. Every day you do that is a victory. Every day you do, you’re a winner.


Kevin Snodgrass