It is possible to walk through the land of the dead and live to tell the tale.
All it takes is a breath.
As anyone who’s sat at the bottom of the swimming pool knows, it isn’t long before the body demands air.
First, it’s a dull ache in the pit of the stomach. Then a moan, rising and filling the chest. A few seconds later and it pushes at the neck and face. Alarm bells start to ring.
Wait a little longer, and every nerve begins wailing and clanging; eyes bulging; veins wide blue and bursting through the skin in a desperate hunt for oxygen.
That is where most of us give in.
But beyond that — across the wailing river of blood — there is calm.
Any of the world’s four dozen professional free-divers can confirm it.
The body slips into a different realm, and we find that we don’t need to breathe at all.
It’s the same calm that was there before the Universe took its first breath. And the same peace that will meet us with our last.
Just remember to come back while you can!
There’s visceral magic in a street fight or a pickup ball game on a summer evening.
Acquaintances going to a measured war.
We fall in love with sports on the playground with our friends.
The trappings and red tape that come with the big money often hang a dark veil over that spark.
On the street, where the cursing and scuffling of the players are louder than the crowd, we find a different type of sport—the real one.
The one we can all play. Where the rules are open to interpretation and trash talk is mandatory. Where everybody leaves their heart on the pitch, battling for the sheer hell of it. Playing for the simple joy of winning together and a large scoop of ego.
No doubt, the pros have reached the pinnacle of technical skill.
But out there on that lonely expanse of bowling green grass, I bet you they miss that street heat more than most.
What is it about a sphere that gets us so excited?
Such an alien shape.
Everybody loves ’em.
Dogs. Humans. Even cows.
You can kick ’em. You can throw ’em.
They fucking roll!
One little ball can be the cause and the solution to so many of our problems.
Great all round.
We saw it a lot last month, those golden moments of failure.
Athletes who tried their best and didn’t perform as they or we expected.
We saw many Olympians who spent the last four years or more preparing for that moment and found themselves wanting on the day, for whatever reason. That’s the way it goes.
On my bad days or weeks, it’s often a struggle to get out of bed, let alone perform on the world stage. But on their bad days, they still show up.
They shoot their shot anyway, knowing it will fall short. Accepting that this time, it’s just one more leg in their journey to the top of the podium.
And then they get up tomorrow and do it again.
There’s a lot that goes into winning at a professional level.
Most of it is off the field of play.
Training. Practice is everything when perfecting a skill and learning to play together. But we need more than that to reach the top.
Harmony. Harmony is more than teamwork.
Great teams are a symphony of minds. And that goes for all those involved, not just those doing the running around.
Harmony is every person playing their part in the same story — singing from the same hymnsheet.
Harmony of purpose and place is at the core of every world-beating business and every world-beating team.
There are few things worse than hearing the same tired old tune played badly.
Bill was a bit confused by all the fuss.
The journalists, bored of the wildfires and plague, had pointed out that he had just dragged the New England Patriots out for full training in the pouring rain.
Bill Belichick replied the only way he knew how: with a sentence stoic enough to have tumbled from the lips of Cato or Marcus Aurelius himself.
One that has been echoed over thousands of years by warriors and athletes and artists and anyone who ever wanted to get something serious done:
“If it rains, it rains.
If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.
If it’s hot, it’s hot.
If it’s not, then that’s what it is.”
Circumstances are bound to change how we execute our plans, but we can’t let them get in the way.
The world is full of elements that are out of our control. Regardless of what they throw up, when we’ve got training scheduled, we train. Because that’s what training is.
One small gesture can make a whole lot of difference.
Especially when you’re one of the most famous people on the planet.
Cristiano Ronaldo has indeed taken just as much money off corporate food giants as any other sportsperson. And he’s probably even drank pop before.
But that one simple act of removing a bottle of coca-cola from where advertisers had carefully placed it, and replacing it with water, might change how a million children view sugary drinks.
Luckily, most of us don’t have our every action scrutinized by a billion eyes. But we still never know how big a small gesture can become because we never know who’s watching.
Scrapping the participation medal is a great idea. Losing is a prize.
The greatest thing about playing sports is winning, and the same goes for any competition. After all, that’s the point.
And the next best thing to winning?
Losing is the next best thing to winning because it means you were in the race.
People who have been forced to the sidelines are often delighted to lose because they finally got a chance to win.
And if you have been in with a chance for a while, losing usually means you’re a step closer to winning.
Another lesson learned. Another hurdle crossed.
Losing sucks. But it’s a lot more fun than spectating.