The Blessing of a Nemesis

 In Blog, Inner First Class

I’ll be the first to admit that I am an Olympics junkie. The thrill of the races, the beauty and grace of the athletes and the endless stories of perseverance are such an inspiration to me. I could probably do ten blog posts off the top of my head about athletes that have uplifted me with their personal stories.

There is a surprising place to find inspiration, however. That is in the persistent existence of intense rivalries between athletes both friendly and not-so-friendly. In just these Olympic games we’ve seen Phelps vs. Le Clos, Phelps vs. Lochte, King vs. Yefemeva, Bolt vs. Gatlin, Raisman vs. Mustafina and more. These relationships have provided almost as much entertainment as the games themselves.

So why do I think these sometimes ugly exchanges are inspirational? When you have someone in your same field that is good, even good enough to beat you, it pushes you. It provides motivation. These athletes are not wishing ill on the others (usually…Tanya Harding is the rare exception) they are just pushing themselves to be the best they can possibly be in order to come out on top. Without that top-quality competitor, they may never achieve what they are capable of because they could choose to coast and come out on top without ever pushing themselves to their peak.

Michael Phelps “face” became famous as he glared down Le Clos, a South African swimmer who bested him in the 200m butterfly in the 2012 Olympics. Phelps used it as fuel to come out on top in the same event in Rio. A more friendly rivalry is with fellow American swimmer Ryan Lochte, with the two trading titles back and forth for years. I imagine having Phelps as a competitor has  made Lochte a far better swimmer than he would have been without that motivation.

Maybe you have a rivalry in your field of expertise. Do not let it turn your attitude dark. Regardless of your relationship with this person, remember to see this for what it is: the universe has put this person in your life in order to sharpen you, teach you and mold you into more than you ever thought you could be. Because of their talent, you are forced to be better. Your nemesis is a blessing!

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