Jay Rifenbary

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Take Home Your Own Gold Medal

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Reflecting on the Sochi Winter Olympic Games I once again was amazed at the power and strength of the human mind, body and spirit. With countless examples of perseverance, stamina, grit, glory and heartache the journey each athlete pursued to arrive at such a venue of human potential was inspiring. Of course the principles and character traits needed to succeed on the snow and ice are the same needed to succeed at any life endeavor. To be the finest artist, musician, teacher, soldier, doctor, cook, author and parent for example requires hard work, taking risks, thinking outside the box, personal sacrifice, honest reflection, emotional vulnerability, determination, and personal accountability.

I seriously doubt any athlete was expecting someone else or some outside entity to do their event for them. Nor would I expect any successful Olympian to be whining about what he or she cannot do, and making excuses. Although there may be reasons for added challenges such as weather, illness, flaw in a suit design, etc., at the end of the day how one reacts to the challenge is as telling of an individual's character and values as how one reacts in victory.

As a society, how are we reacting to challenges, and how are we doing in regard to personal accountability and taking ownership for our future? Are we whining more, blaming more and becoming less independent? Individually, would you be on the medal stand? You are the primary instrument in orchestrating the life you want, whether you want to believe that or not. Life is filled with struggles, trepidation, failures and disappointments, but it is in the overcoming of those challenges that develops the personal and professional character in each of us.

There is little debate that increased dependency on an outside entity for individual fulfillment is debilitating to self-respect, and to the very fabric of a free and independent society. There are many in need and as a society we have a responsibility to help those who cannot help themselves. There is also a strong argument that as a society we are becoming more dependent on government involvement into our lives, and for many not by choice. As American economist, social theorist and author Thomas Sowell stated, “Helping those who have been struck by unforeseeable misfortunes is fundamentally different from making dependency a way of life.” To assume that the government is there to provide everyone everything will be a social and economic disaster.

It is critical for an athlete to have a team of supporters behind him or her. A coach, mentor, trainer, therapist, family & friends are all part of that team for example, but in the end it will be the individual performance and choices made by the athlete that will ultimately determine victory or defeat. It is also critical that their are elements of government that provide a team of support for society, but like an athlete, it will ultimately be individual performance and choices that determine one’s future. A healthy, free and independent society is created when there is a proper balance between the role of government and self-determination. Dependency is a catalyst for apathy, a lack of individual initiative, generates an increased sense of entitlement and lack of personal responsibility. Most importantly it undermines and underutilizes human potential and achievement. Pope Francis stated, “In Europe first and now in America, elected men have taken it upon themselves to indebt their people to create and atmosphere of dependence. And why? For their own selfish need to increase their own personal power.”

You have the potential to win gold medals that reflect the many victories in your own life. However, that cannot be achieved if you fail to persevere, disbelieve in yourself, and become dependent on someone else to create the life you want. The core values that you stand for and believe in will be the lighthouse that guides you through those foggy and stormy days of self-doubt and self-defeat. It is the collective practice of those values that structure a strong and resilient character to cross the finish line in personal victory. As Confucius said, “The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential…these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.



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