We all want victory. But, what does that even mean? Does it only mean to better than everyone else? Or is personal victory and having a good self-worth a different, but even greater triumph?
I had the chance to speak with Olympic athlete Jason Dorland about his ideas on the topic of winning.
His career in rowing began as an enthusiastic middle-schooler. And, as most insecure pre-teens do, he found that when he did extraordinary things people treated him differently.
Soon enough, the love of the game distorted into something much more sinister. The praise received over one extraordinary achievement was temporary. The only way to hear that praise again was to do something twice as extraordinary.
“Even when I won, it just meant I didn’t lose,” Dorland explains.
Years later, Jason wasn’t satisfied with just qualifying for the 1988 Seoul Olympics; he had set his mind on winning gold. This was going to be the ultimate extraordinary thing.
Over the next few weeks, Canada watched him and his teammates win race after race. Everyone had their mind set on them bringing home the gold medal.
But, on the day of the final race, the team came in last, landing them sixth overall. The Canadian press took this loss and didn’t hold back from ripping the team apart.
It wasn’t until he met his wife—an Olympic runner—when his mindset started to change. She ran because she loved it, an idea that was inconceivable to him at the time.
“I’m going to try my best,” were words he didn’t think belonged in a professional athlete’s mouth. He notes seeing her race with the biggest smile on her face no matter her position in the race.
Jason has now developed this idea of doing things out of love and not for “the chase”. This way of life applies not only in competition, but in school, in work, in marriage, and in everyday life.
As a rowing coach, Dorland makes sure no athlete on his team ever feels the way he did. And he’s been successful in doing so. As he says, “The less we thought about winning the more we won.”
Now, Dorland reflects on his time in Seoul and tells me he is thankful for his failure.
“I wouldn’t have wanted to know the guy that won in Seoul,” he says. To him, a victory would have only validated his former mindset.
Jason’s story has been well received all over the country. His words resonate with almost everyone. Society’s definition of a successful person has every aspect of the ‘American Dream’.
When we imagine someone happy, we see a CEO in a corner office overlooking Manhattan, an actor taking their final bow on the Broadway stage, a scientist accepting a Nobel Prize. An athlete with a gold medal around their neck and their country’s flag raised at the Olympic Games.
No matter what, it is money, awards, praise, and material things that people look for. But Dorland says this is a backward way of thinking, and I agree. Whatever happened to competing runners hugging after a race well-run, dancers dancing like nobody’s watching, and students who’d rather focus on learning than getting good marks.
It is common for people to see what they like and what they’re good at as one and the same. So, take the time to think about this: if someone asked you why you do what you do — is your answer love? Or something else?