Champions are made when things go wrong

In 2009, Kristin Armstrong retired from professional cycling. Fresh off a gold medal in the time trial at the Beijing Olympics, she was ready to start a family. Only, it didn’t take as long as she anticipated to welcome her son, Lucas, into the world. She still wanted to get back on her bike. She still felt competitive. And so, she started training again, made the U.S. Olympic team and on Wednesday repeated her gold medal performance.

Kristin Armstrong repeated her gold medal performance in the time trial.

A happy but tired Armstrong was interviewed during NBC’s afternoon coverage from London. First thing’s first — that was her last race. But as the brief discussion continued, she was asked if during her comeback from retirement she ever had doubts, especially trying to balance the demands of being an elite athlete with her family. The answer? Of course.

It was a theme I’ve noticed throughout the London Games, from the stories of individual athletes getting to their Olympic moment to the pluck of teams who battle through difficult moments to keep medal hopes alive. As one commentator put it, it’s easy to win when you feel great, when everything is going your way. Champions are made when things go wrong.

Doubt, I believe, is part of the human experience. To try and banish all doubt from your mind might be a futile exercise. You give it power by trying to ignore it. Because doubts will come up. You will feel unsure of yourself. You will get frustrated. You will want to quit.  Where you go on to discover gold (or silver or bronze so to speak) is when you keep at it, when you find a way to work through the doubt and frustration. When you ask for what you really want. When you decide to listen to yourself and try.

It’s not about being perfect every day. It’s about trying. It’s about showing up. Show up as yourself, as you are. Some days will be a struggle. Other days will be pure joy. And still other days will be amazing and beyond your expectations.

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