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Those giants who walk among us and in the shadows of Rudyard Kipling:

September 6, 2012

I have been so inspired over the past months by some of the extraordinary ordinary people that we have been exposed to during the Olympics, Paralympics and recent everyday life events, that I’m writing this to capture the essence of what it means to me (and us).

When I got home last night, I was just in time to watch the blind runners in the track events. Now, just for a moment, imagine sprinting as fast as you can with a world audience watching you, down and around the track without being able to see a thing.

Now imagine being the “guide” or “eyes” of the runner whereby you run alongside them at a great athletes pace – but you are simply there to help them to glory with nothing obvious in it for yourself (if indeed your measure of success is fame or a medal, for someone else). What kind of selfless nature or upbringing drives an ordinary person to this level of magnanimity and such generosity of spirit? Certainly we don’t see this in big business or government structures whereby there is an overarching belief that glory is to be found in helping or serving others.

Whilst possibly obvious, it is important to remind ourselves that Paralympians and Olympians weren’t born champions in terms of performance. They were born champions in attitude. Sure, an Ian Thorpe or Michael Phelps may have been blessed with flipper-like hands or feet and it sure helps, but similarly there are many people out there that have similar physical attributes that can’t swim or rather chose basketball, porn, the piano, or computer science, because it is all ultimately about the choices we make.

The Olympians, each and every one of them, have a dream and a plan. These are two essential ingredients for any form of success in life. The third is naturally acquiring and mastering skill which brings me to the fourth, determination.

If any of those ingredients are missing, you’ll never realise your true potential.

“If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same”

Outside of the current Olympic glory, we are in the wake of a real tragedy on so many levels involving Lance Armstrong’s supposed guilt or not – but within it, a certain fall from grace.

Lots have conspired to get us here. There are the “Inquisitors” that have doggedly pursued Lance rightly or wrongly for a decade and more. Then there’s the athlete, the cancer-survivor and the champion of the cause. When all is said and done, Lance Armstrong is an exceptional athlete and what he has given to mankind, or even a few individual sufferers, possibly exceeds any misdemeanour.

It’s a complex story with so many pros and cons that the one thing that I’ve observed and am learning from is, those that are jeering and enjoying the fall are not good types at all. Those that are generally saddened by it mostly are. I’m intentionally keeping it simplistic. Lance as a brand represented HOPE to so many individuals, ill or not – and that is something magical you never want to see folks lose.

Personally, I think he should NEVER have given up regardless of the pain or end result. But then again, I’m not him – and life is about choices.

“If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise”

Back to our Olympians: imagine training for four years to do the Triple Jump and getting a foul for each of the four jumps and being eliminated because you simply “overstepped the mark”. It happened, more than once. And yet the athletes maintained their composure against the forces of crushing disappointment and unforced error. And this happened over so many field and track events. Ultimately you have only the choice on how to deal with incomprehensible personal anger and disappointment.

“If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’”

Now imagine being their coach sitting on the side of the track, watching your “life’s work” for four years plus, simply implode on the day. How do you reconcile it? How do you cope, smile, stay positive, and move-on? Again, it’s a choice. These are people that when life threw them lemons they started Schweppes (forget lemon juice).

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same”

“Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools”

We have world-class runners without legs, fantastically talented archers without arms. Imagine choosing a sport whereby the very limbs you need to do it are missing, and yet via other appendages or prosthetics you indeed do dream of mastering and conquering that sport on a world stage.

You can even be a Caster Semenya. Questioned, prodded, tested and vilified, yet you hold your head up high, you follow your own compass and push through all the negativity towards glory.

“If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools”
And off the track ‘n field, I have recently been privileged to work with and help the Baphumele Children’s Home, led by a heroic Rosie Mashale. She selflessly helps those most in need.

My wife and I recently donated a whole lot of quality “stuff” that we had in storage. Yes, we could have sold it and made some money but we played to our strength, in this instance, financial – and the extract from Rosie’s letter below makes this gesture on our part possibly more meaningful than anything we could have done:

“Your contribution helps us to save young, innocent children, whose lives have all been impacted by the HIV/Aids pandemic rampaging in our country – they are orphans or they have been abandoned by dying parents, they have been dumped as little babies or they are HIV-positive themselves. One way or another, they have all already experienced death, disease, abuse, neglect and hunger in their still so young lives.
It is people like you, who help to give them back their childhood, their smiles, their trust in life and a future”.
This note showed me just how much more we could be doing, even small steps, to inspire and help others.
At a time of tragedy like Marikana, in an age of deceit, “false prophets” like  Malema, and wide-spread greed and corruption, the onus falls squarely on us, the individual, to dig deep and as Ghandi once said, “to be the change we wish to see in others”.
Or as our friend Mr Kipling would have said in closing:
“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!”
There is a wonderful video on YouTube of Beyonce singing at The United Nations a few weeks back for World Humanitarian Day.
The thread throughout this clip (below) is that “I was here”.
It says it all.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 3, 2013 1:20 pm

    I just needed a reminder of how lucky and fortunate we are…that my problems are so incidental, in the grand scheme of our planet. This video moves me to tears…and yes, its a call to action, to go and DO something selfless. Yes…thankyou. Oli

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