Last 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.
Most 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.
But 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.
Here’s a short Active Parenting 4th Edition video for parents of children ages 5-12 on structuring homework time.
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Here’s a short video about the One World Education model. The organization is based in the Washington, DC/Metro area, and its designed curriculum helps students improve their writing and critical thinking skills.
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Most people don’t know this, but about 65,000 Fairfax County (VA) residents were considered economically disadvantaged in 2012?
Of course, I would never have been able to cite this statistic if I hadn’t taken the time to conduct the research. What I discovered, though, blew my mind.
In an era where Fairfax County’s median household income for 2015 was around $113,000, single individuals under the age of 65 (in 2012) were surviving off an annual salary of $12,000 or less, and a family of four with three children $23,000 or less. But what was even more disheartening, at least for me, was the fact that poverty-level persons moving into Fairfax County from other areas did not cause the increase in the poverty rate and persons living in poverty. According to the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services (2013), the growth of poverty is more likely the result of lower income persons losing economic ground and slipping into poverty.
As many of you know, I am a Master’s-level Social Worker, having worked in the area of youth development for over 20 years. During this time, I’ve had the privilege and honor of working with parenting adults and their children as they struggle to make ends meet. But during these exchanges, I was witness to young people learning how to survive and thrive under the tutelage of concerned adults of all hues. And on a personal level, I can attest to the power of concerned adults’ life-changing involvement. If I had not had concerned teachers, guidance counselors and coaches looking out for me – and the strength of my once poor, single-parent mother – outcomes for me could have been quite different.
It is important that we dispel any notion that poverty does not exist in Fairfax County. Even though the percentage is small (around 5.8 percent), it represents a clear and present danger to the individual lives that it affects. That is why ACHIEVEMENT SQUARE Development & Training Centers, Inc. exists. We believe more needs to be done to uplift Fairfax County’s economically disadvantaged populations, especially those racial/ethnic groups most affected by poverty.
Here are two additional details I discovered about poverty in Fairfax County:
- Of those 65,000 Fairfax County residents living in poverty in 2012, around 38 percent of them were between the ages of five and 24; and
- Significantly higher poverty rates were reported for Hispanics (8.9%) and Blacks (8.3%), while the 6.5 percent poverty rate for Asians was only slightly higher than the 6.1 percent for Whites.
According to Boston Globe journalist Megan Woolhouse, in her May 2015 article Teens from Well-Off Families Most Likely to Land Summer Jobs, “Better-off families start with advantages that help their children get ahead, while low-income households struggle to break the cycle of poverty.”
No surprises here. Being able to leverage higher wages, and save and invest for the future, positions better-off families to take full advantage of educational, vocational and social opportunities. What is alarming, though, is the high percentage of Black American youths who were unemployed. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016, Black American youths (ages 16-24) had an unemployment rate of 20.6 percent. This rate more than doubled the rate for Whites (9.9%) and Asians (10%), and nearly doubled the rate for Hispanics (11.3%).
It is important that we not get it twisted. Poor children are poor not because of something they did but because of something their parents may not be able to do, which is to secure full-time jobs that pay livable wages. That is why we need more programs like the Young Achievers Network. These programs allow economically disadvantaged participants to acquire the knowledge, skills, experiences and connections that are needed to chart more prosperous futures. And in the short run, these program participants will ultimately, in the words of Megan Woolhouse, achieve success, as they too will “learn responsibility, punctuality, and other skills that give them a leg up when they enter the labor force as adults, helping them advance their careers and earn more over their working lives.”
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