UNDEFEATED: Usain Bolt and His Legacy of Achievement

Achievement Journal Logo RevisedLast Saturday, I learned through Facebook that Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt came in third in the 100-meter dash at the International Amateur Athletic Federation’s World Track & Field Championships in London.  After reading this news, I immediately clicked over to YouTube.  I had to see with my own eyes how a man who has clocked 9.58 seconds over this distance could be defeated in what was being billed as the final race of his illustrious career.

Usain Bolt Last 100Most track and field aficionados know Bolt’s start is not the best, and last weekend, it was terrible.  American Christian Coleman, world renown for his blistering starts, pressed the pace from jump, leading all competitors for most of the race before being overtaken in the final five meters by his compatriot Justin Gatlin.  And while Gatlin’s winning time of 9.92 was much slower than Bolt’s world record, he was the one who left these world championships with a gold medal dangling from his neck.

NBC Sports announcer Ato Bolden, a former world-class sprinter himself, was quick to question Bolt’s rationale for not retiring after winning gold last year at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio.  He suggested that Bolt’s legacy would be tarnished, that it was a mistake for him to pursue another world championship in 2017.  A loss could potentially deny him the kind of endorsement deals offered to noteworthy champions, he said. Before this race in London, Bolt had been undefeated in major sprints with Olympic or World championship implications.

Gatlin BowBut I disagree with Bolden.  Usain Bolt’s legacy isn’t tarnished.  If anything, this loss will embolden him in his pursuit of greatness outside of athletics.  And as I watched Justin Gatlin pay homage to Bolt with a respectful bow, it became increasingly apparent that he will always be considered track and field’s G.O.A.T., greatest of all time, long after his records of 9.58 in the 100 and 19.19 in the 200 are broken.

Usain Bolt demonstrated grace and humility in the midst of his defeat.  He commended both Gatlin and Coleman for running great races.  More importantly, he never attributed his loss to injury or lack of preparation.  He lost.  ‘Nuff said.

There are three things we Achievers should take away from Bolt’s loss.  They include the following:

  • Defeat is nothing more than a temporary setback.
  • We are defined by our lifetime of achievement, not singular moments.
  • We are the authors of our own success stories.

Defeat is nothing more than a temporary setback

We all experience gains and losses.  That’s part of life.  Usain Bolt lost the final race of his career, but because he’s like us, he has also experienced other forms of loss outside of the athletic arena.  But these losses don’t keep good men, good women, down.  If anything, they make us better, stronger.  Every defeat, every setback, is meant to be a lesson just waiting to be learned.  And as we step into futures of living independently fearless and empowered, we take pride in knowing we can never be defeated if we’re still inching closer to the finish line.  It has been noted by an unknown poet that the race doesn’t always go to the bigger or faster man, the race sometimes goes to the man who thinks he can.  Ultimately, it’s about finishing what you started.

We are defined by our lifetime of achievement, not singular moments

Usain Bolt burst on the scene at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics Games.  Since then, he has rewritten the record books, setting individual world records in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, and working with his Jamaican teammates to do the same in the 4 x 100 relay. And as memories of what Bolt accomplished on the track become more distant, we will come to consider them singular moments in a life hopefully well led.

Yes, he will be able to secure major endorsements because of what he accomplished on the track.  We consumers will buy any product or service that he promotes due to the appreciation we have for the way he entertained us before, during and after each of his races.  But we must always remember that Usain Bolt’s achievements are no different than our own.  Because they are no different, they also require that we identify ways we can use them to enrich other people’s lives.  When all is said and done, we should all want to be remembered as individuals who uplifted others through positive investments of time, talent and treasure.

We are the authors of our own success stories

A person is not considered successful just because he or she achieved fame, fortune or celebrity.  Success is measured by one’s ability to keep a roof over his or her head, food on the table, and clothes on his or her back.  Therefore, we all should wake up each morning excited about the lives we will enrich, the places we will visit, and the things we will create through sheer grit and determination.

My waking moments are also spent paying homage to the God who sees fit to allow me to take my next breaths.  I implore you to do the same.  Because it is he who allows us to breathe, it is imperative that we receive the personal revelation from on high that allows us to define our purposes, our reasons for being here.  Once these purposes have been defined, we must recognize the important role we play in making each other’s stories more compelling.  Gatlin did that for Bolt by serving as a formidable opponent.  And even though Gatlin got a leg up on Bolt in his final race, you would be hard pressed to dispute what Bolt was able to accomplish as an elite sprinter over a 10-year span.  

Thank you, Usain, for inviting us to the trackside parties that ensued after each of your spectacular performances.   You will be missed but not easily forgotten.

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About Jeffery "J.A." Faulkerson

Jeffery “J.A.” Faulkerson is the Executive Director of ACHIEVEMENT SQUARE Development & Training Centers, Inc. Through his Northern Virginia-based nonprofit corporation, he strives to help economically disadvantaged individuals increase their capacity to become great nurturers, great learners, great workers and great leaders.

Jeffery is also a Nonprofit Strategist | Book Author | Motivational Speaker with Culturally Coded Content, a for-profit creative writing and strategic planning firm. He is the author of Adinkrahene: Fear of a Black Planet (fiction) and Real Men Raise CHAMPIONS: Unleashing Your Inner COACH (nonfiction).

In July 2015, Adinkrahene: Fear of a Black Planet was named one of three finalists for a Phillis Wheatley Book Award (in the First Fiction category). The Phillis Wheatley Book Awards are held annually in conjunction with the Harlem Book Fair in New York City.

A certified parent educator through Active Parenting Publishers, Inc., Jeffery is committed to showing all parents how to positively influence their children’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors. He earned his Master’s of Science degree in Social Work from the University of Tennessee, and has worked with professionals in both the public and private sectors for over 20 years to improve outcomes for low-income children and their families.

Jeffery is available to speak about his insights and experiences as an author, child and family advocate, philanthropist, and former TRIO Upward Bound and YMCA director. He also offers fee-based services for individual and corporate clients and facilitates fee-based workshops for parents who understand the importance of honing their skills and learning from other people’s experiences.

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