I love sports, and not for the usual reasons. While I played as a kid and I still have a few favorite teams, what really keeps me interested is the way athletics highlight our values, our excellence, and our progress.
The values behind sports are the same ones that bring success in life. The spirit of competition, grit, and fair play help our kids win little league championships when they’re young and build great companies when they’re older. At the professional level, everybody can see that talent without hard work isn’t enough. Only constant innovation and a relentless drive for excellence is enough to produce results.
Clear and unambiguous results are a big part of why sports are so compelling. There are clear winners and losers. There’s no shame in losing, but it never feels good, and that’s the way it should be. We need a little hunger for victory to drive us forward in life.
In sports and life, success comes from a mix of talent, hard work, and luck. We can’t change our talent levels, but we can always work a little harder. And as Ben Franklin said, I absolutely believe in luck and I find that the harder I work, the more luck I have. Nothing is more essential for a person’s success than work ethic.
The drive to win in sports and succeed in business is also a great source of innovation and progress. I’m continually amazed at how people keep pushing the boundaries of human performance.
The recent example of Eliud Kipchoge, who completed a marathon in under 2 hours absolutely blows my mind. Not many people can run a mile in 5 minutes, but Kipchoge ran a 4:34 pace for over 26 miles. Incredible. I noticed some stories saying he would not be credited with the record because he had too many unfair advantages. I don’t agree with this stance.
It’s particularly silly to criticize Kipchoge for having an unfair shoe. His shoe is made by Nike and anybody can buy it. If it helps him run faster, so what? I recall a similar story a few years ago when American swimmers were dominating at the olympics, partially due to some fancy swimsuits modeled on shark skin.
It’s foolish to ban sport innovations. Constant improvement and innovation is a great strength for America and for the entire human race. It’s that very combination of hunger to win and unwillingness to settle for the status quo that drives us forward. That’s how we moved into the high tech world we live in today.
Athletics are a perfect distillation of what makes us great. We should celebrate those who strive for excellence and those who innovate, not hold them back.