Two weeks ago I was in Los Angeles watching the CrossFit Games. Along with thousands of other athletes, I watched 100 of the fittest men and women compete for $1 million in prize money.
This week everyone I know is glued to the television watching the Olympics. We are all watching 204 countries compete for gold, silver and bronze medals in London.
What is more interesting to me than who wins prize money or who wins medals is who defines the new limits of what is possible in sport. I am fascinated by those athletes who are performing routines never performed before.
In almost every sport, world records are being broken. Some are new time records. But others records are about completing routines no one previously thought possible. These Olympic athletes are quite literally redefining what is possible. I wish that didn’t sound like such a cliche or a trite Nike commercial, but that’s the honest truth.
In the event of mens synchronized diving, the men from Mexico performed an inward 4 1/2 somersault tuck. This was the most difficult dive ever performed at any Olympics. Those two men just changed the standards for what is possible in synchronized diving.
The same thing is happening in women’s gymnastics and a dozen other sports. The limits of what is possible are changing this week. And once that bar moves, all sorts of new feats become possible.
In 1954 Roger Bannister ran 1 mile in 3:59.4, breaking the 4:00 mile barrier for the first time. Before he accomplished that milestone, people didn’t think it was possible. By running, he redefined what is possible for running. And now there are hundreds of people who have run faster than a 4 minute mile.
In the Olympics, the Mexican divers just redefined what is possible for diving.
At the CrossFit Games, I watched athletes of all ages redefine what is possible for all around fitness. They swam, biked, ran, lifted heavy weights, threw heavy balls, raced through pullups and muscle ups, and completed multiple insane events each day. I watched those athletes compete and I videotaped them, because I was witnessing people redefine what is possible. I left the Games with a new vision for what is possible for human fitness.
I came away both humbled and inspired. And motivated to push myself more, because now I had a new standard and a new bar for what is possible. By watching other amazing athletes, I redefined what is possible for myself.
In order to do amazing things in your life, you need to surround yourself with people who are doing amazing things. You need to put yourself in situations where you can witness amazing accomplishments. In order to run a 4 minute mile, you must train with people who are capable of running a 4 minute mile. In order to do a 4 1/2 somersault tuck dive, you must train with people who believe this is possible.
The people you hang out with end up shaping your boundaries of what is possible for you and your life. Which means you need to pick your peers very carefully.
Olympic athletes often move across the country in order to train with other elite athletes. They move to live near the best coaches, the best trainers, the best peers. They organize their entire life in order to make themselves better. And making themselves better means training with the best in the world. It means training with people who will challenges and redefine the boundaries of what is possible.
I know you are statistically unlikely to be an elite athlete. I know I will never compete for an olympic medal. However, I do have goals for my own life. I want to be a strong athlete, an effective coach and a skillful writer. Which means I need to hang out with other amazing athletes, coaches and writers. I need to surround myself with role models who define and demonstrate what is possible. In order to make myself stronger at the gym, I need to train with people who are stronger than me. By watching others perform, I see concrete evidence of what is possible for myself.
I’m sure you have your own goals for your life. You might not be training for any specific sport. But you probably do have a career or an important relationship. Which means you might want to take some time this week to look around you and consider your peers. Are your peers helping you achieve your goals? Are they pushing you to be better? Are the people you hang out with pushing themselves to be better? Do you have good training partners for your life?
If you were taking your career or your relationship or your fitness to an entirely new standard, what would you do differently? Who would you want to train with? I hope you consider your peer group carefully, because your peer group will influence what you believe to be possible for yourself. Just ask the Olympic athletes.