Michael Phelps. Simone Biles. Gabby Douglas. Kerri Walsh Jennings.
We love cheering for these Olympic heroes who have worked hard, sacrificed and fought to make their dreams a reality. Their exceptional stories are now a part of history.
As millions of us watch these athletes compete for gold in Rio, it reminds us of another story.
Starting with a dream
In 1776, the American colonies put their lives on the line for a few simple truths: all people are created equal. Everyone is born with certain rights. Our rights, by the fact that we are breathing, include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Over the decades and centuries that followed, America kept that promise. Work hard, play by the rules and never let go of your dream, because here your dreams can become a reality. The freedom to pursue our dreams has sparked the greatest, most durable example of human achievement the world has ever seen.
For a lot of Americans, the dream isn’t standing on a podium at the Olympics. It’s owning a home, being reunited with family, or having a steady job. For some, the dream is getting to send your children to college, so they can pursue their dreams.
Can we still keep that promise? It’s easy to lose hope looking at the data. Fewer Americans own a home than they did just a few years ago. For several years, the number of new businesses started in the US trailed the number shutting down. Even though trend has has eased up, the economy still struggles to shrug off the recession.
The American Dream survives only if there are people willing to fight to preserve it. This is why it’s so important to stop the growth and invasiveness of government regulations and petty politics. Every layer of government intervention is like strapping weights to an Olympic gymnast and saying “now give it a shot.”
“You didn’t win those”
The Olympics also remind us of why risk is so important to success. If Simone Biles had been told gymnastics was too risky, she would have never reached her dream. If she had been denied the chance to crash and burn a few times, she would have never stuck the landing.
When would-be entrepreneurs are admonished that “you didn’t build that,” it sends a message that society does not value the risks they take. It’s as if instead of cheering, we all pointed at Michael Phelps’ 22 (and counting) gold medals and said “you didn’t win those.”
No one would deny the importance of good coaches, a supportive family and a million intangibles that all fell into place so Michael Phelps or Simone Biles could stand on the podium. But someone had to step onto the starting blocks. Someone had to catch the bar. Someone had to put in the hours and the sacrifice on behalf of their dream.
The same goes for anyone who still believes in the American Dream. No one would deny the importance of good teachers, a great team and funding from investors to business success. But someone had to make the pitch. Close the sale. Put in the late nights and make a million impossible decisions. Someone had to have the fierce determination in their soul that it was simply going to work.
When we look at the achievements of Olympians, the pure joy of winning, and the stories of sacrifice, let’s remember that our own lives are worthy of celebrating success too.
Will America continue to be a nation that celebrates exceptional people and unbelievable success, or will we settle for something less?
Our dreams only become reality if we fight for them. So fight for your dreams. Fight for the space to achieve them.
And always, always hold on to hope.