Reconciling A Tortured Private Life with Public Success

Its not an uncommon story… an athlete has a tortured private life: abuse of one sort or another, poverty, lack in one area or many areas (e.g. familial support), yet that athlete rises to achieve stunning success.  How?

Being able to hypothesis an explanation for this pattern has eluded me.  How does someone who endures daily pain and suffering, who must fight off attacks or endure them because their attacker has physically, mentally or emotionally jailed them into the role of victim, who does not know from one day to the next whether they will eat, have shelter, perhaps even be alive, rise to compete at the Olympics, and sometimes, rise to the level of Olympic and World Champion?


There are countless athletes who have support, who have access to coaching, to the environment of a club or team, have access to training facilities and equipment and do not gain the insight into the details of executing sport specific technique with any degree of quality or proficiency, yet an athlete who has lived a tortured private life manages to perfect movement to the point that they generate power, speed, and endurance that rivals those who have had nothing but privilege after privilege.


If you lived a tortured life, but were exposed to a sport, a sport which offered you a break, an escape albeit temporary from your abuser, your jailer, your lack; how much time, and with what effort and energy would you put into that sport?  With what attitude would you approach that sport?  With what level of gratitude, excitement, enthusiasm, eagerness, excitement would you approach every single training session?

The hypothesis is this… if the last thing you want to do is go back to your private jail cell – a physical, mental or emotional jail cell – or jailer, then how would you commit to training?  How dedicated to learning, to practicing, to developing your skill would you be? With what level of determination would you work if sport offered you a temporary leave from jail, from your jailer, from pain, from abuse, from the reality of a life of lack?

It would be unbridled, unrestrained, limitless, it would scale the walls of impossibility.

Want to succeed? Then you have to figure out how to release yourself, give yourself permission, free yourself to experience your fullest potential, seeking with unbridled enthusiasm, unrestrained energy, unwavering faith, with limitless imagination what is possible, what is possible for you to achieve, to attain.

Problem is… our life in the west is comfortable and with our daily aim of making it only more and more comfortable, we fail to use discomfort as a source of motivation, as a means to propel ourselves towards new goals. In the west, when we are uncomfortable it usually leads to a complaint, or worse blaming that someone made you uncomfortable. At an extreme, discomfort is labeled abuse, and is used to validate and excuse failing and failure.

In the west we having training facilities used rarely, typically only for the media circus’ of the Pan Am, Commonwealth, or Olympic Games.  We have multi million dollar stadiums in our cities, we have indoor and outdoor pools and tracks and gyms in our own towns, yet we cannot put down our phones, tablets, or switch off the streaming videos, or turn off the social media feed because that would be uncomfortable.

Champions arise from discomfort. Some are born into discomfort and use it to drive themselves to achieve so as to escape. Some are born into privilege, but are mentored to use discomfort to press on, as motivation to pursue their potential.

What do you pursue?

Comfort by choosing to sustain the status quo, the known, the worn in and well worked rut.

Discomfort by choosing to believe that there is more to you, more to your potential, more to your life, more to see, more to do, more to learn.