Friday, August 3, 2012

Goin' for the Gold

As I write this, the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England is in full swing. Coordinating event schedules with their time zones, folks around the world crowd around televisions cheering for their nation’s athlete. The lucky of us can record events to watch the next day, fast-forwarding through commercials about nail clippers for pet lizards. The diehard fans stay up throughout the night (depending on their time-zone, of course) to watch events in real time. No fast-forwarding through commercials for them.

But one thing I have heard time and again during the Olympics is the phrase ‘not expected to medal.’ I hear it in the media, and even the athletes say it – about themselves! The phrase can be heard in the days of hype leading up to the games – even before the athlete’s plane has landed. Can’t everyone show a bit of positivity?

Many sports’ final outcomes are based on stats, finishing times, previous competition standings, and so forth. Having a healthy perspective on competition is important, though, and not mentally preparing for a loss can be detrimental to the athlete. Being mature, sportsmanlike and level-headed about competition is important – no one likes a sore loser.

But it’s a fine line between setting oneself up for disappointment, being realistic, and speaking negatively.

If there was ever a writing contest where the grand prize was a date with Rick Springfield (our respective spouses aside, of course), and other entrants were the likes of Nora Roberts, JK Rowling, and Stephen King, would I look at the other entrants and not bother entering? Not on your life. Now, maybe in this imaginary contest, Stephen King would be hoping to win the prize for his wife who is maybe a big fan of Rick Springfield herself, I don’t know. But Stephen aside, you can be sure I would be polishing every word I wrote and sending in my entry, tout de suite. I wouldn’t be thinking about the other entrants, giving up hope and moaning ‘I’m never gonna win,’ much the same as ‘not expected to medal.’ With a healthy dose of rationale in my pocket I would think positive, plan my outfit for my date, and brush my hair most enthusiastically – just in case.

You just never know.

Realistic, rational thinking is important – preparing for a loss is necessary. But waking up thinking negative thoughts in the days leading to the contest results would get me nowhere. Doing nothing else but pacing and waiting would eventually turn me into Rick-stalker; an unhealthy and unproductive (and illegal) way of being.

The armchair athlete I am may not know everything about the psychology of sports. And maybe there is more to the phrase ‘not expected to medal.’ But if you ask me, it doesn’t sound very positive. In this age of promoting positive thinking and well-being with books, tapes, motivational speakers and framed positive sayings for your living room wall, you would think everyone, especially the athletes with their coaches paid to motivate them, would know better.

If I walked around all day saying I am ‘not expected to publish,’ or I am ‘not expected to write anything anyone likes,’ well then – I never will. If you don’t give yourself half a chance at something – and it doesn’t necessarily have to be entering contests - why bother doing what you love in the first place? Do it because you love it.

No matter what you do, expect to medal – go for the gold. Give yourself a chance to improve and surpass your own standards. Think and speak positively. And while you’re doing that, I will keep writing and dreaming of a date with Rick Springfield – because, you just never know.

Thanks for reading,


  1. "I'm not expected to publish," for a writer would be a ludicrous statement wouldn't it? The best moments in the Olympics are when an athlete not ranking in the top few wins and surprises everyone. And it only happened because they never gave up.

  2. I couldnt' agree with you more, Ryshia! Ludicrous statement for a writer that is, but I have heard it - very sad. Always think positive! Happy writing to you, and thank you for reading! Lisa