JULY 26, 2010

So I’m sitting on a United plane, again, heading to Chicago, again, on my way back to my home base in Calgary.  This will be my 22nd layover in Chicago since Team Night Train and I won Gold inVancouver almost 5 months ago.  And no, I’m not exaggerating, this is ACTUALLY my 22nd layover there! 

I’m on my way back to Calgary after spending the past couple of weeks zigzagging the continent.  I was in Orlando last week for a day and a half to give the keynote speech for the NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association) National Convention.  It was an amazing experience where I got to tell my story and talk about training to people that have written all of the books I’ve been reading through the years to gain advantages in my own programs…very cool stuff!  I then headed back to Calgary and spent a few days relaxing and enjoying the Calgary Stampede with friends.  The Stampede’s nickname is “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” and earns every bit of that title with its rodeos, chuck wagon races, fairs and tent parties. 

After a few days of pure exhaustion I flew back (through Chicago) to my hometown of Buffalo, New York, where I got to hang out with, then lead out, the athletes for the Opening Ceremony of the 32ndEmpire State Games.  I actually competed in these same games 15 summers ago.  New York was the first state to hold a mini-Olympics for it’s residents and it was brought back with a bang this year as Third Eye Blind closed down the Opening Ceremonies.  I say ‘brought back’ because budget cuts at the state level caused the cancellation of last summer’s games.  A small group from the Buffalo area decided that was not acceptable and put together this year’s games; bigger and better than ever.  This group took it upon themselves to say that a poor economy was not a good enough reason to deprive the youth from what is, for most of the athletes, the largest stage they’ll ever compete on…

This brings me to what I really wanted to talk about: why is it that some businesses and some individuals take it upon themselves to do such great things with the money their companies make and the experiences they have, and some decide to buy another boat to put in theMediterranean?  I’m very curious where this good will comes from in some and why not in others.  I’ve found, myself included, that success in a competitive environment comes generally from a very selfish perspective.  When I was a younger athlete all the way up until just the past year or two, I was very me-centric.  When you are training for the Olympic Games your world revolves around one letter- ‘I’.  When do I need to train, when do I need to go to sleep, what can eat and what can’t I drink.  This is how I lived for a long time with much success athletically.  ‘I’ gets the job done during off-season training and once the season starts in 4-man bobsled , that I turns into aWe for one’s own team…which is still based around the success of ‘I’.

This is a fairly often-prescribed path to success as an Olympian as well as a businessman (and women, don’t take that word the wrong way J).  If you solely look out for yourself, you’ll find yourself succeeding.  Once one becomes aware of this behavior, is it still ok to act this way though?  I did for a long time.  But once that success becomes bigger and bigger even the most competitive people and athletes start to want to give back.  You start to become driven by helping others have the same kind of success you did.  For me it turned into my “Back to School Project” and was a very conscious decision to do more with where I was in my life.  For this group of businessmen in Buffalo, it turned into giving well over a million dollars to ensure that over 30,000 athletes competed for the right to head to Buffalo and compete against athletes from all over the second largest state in the union. 

Whatever their reasons were, or what their motivation was, I applaud them.  It takes a certain competitor to realize when they have the ability to help others and a certain mindset to change from selfish to giving.  I’d love to see more athletes and businessmen turning that fiery drive into success for themselves as well as others around them.  I know I am trying myself and that’s really all ‘I’ can control…what can ‘U’ control?