We were talking about Jeremy Lin on “A Woman’s View.”
Yes. We talk about sports. Sometimes.
This week we talked about unemployment being down and the acceptance of interracial marriage being up. We talked about Whitney Houston’s death and politics, and my guests said interesting things on all of those subjects. But when I brought up Jeremy Lin and his buzzer-beating 3-point shots, Natalie Gochnour, executive vice president and chief economist for the Salt Lake Chamber, said, “His story reminds me of an Olympic moment. Do you mind if I share it?”
The moment involved Olympic champion figure skater Sarah Hughes, who was just in town for the 10th anniversary of the 2002 Winter Games. “Sarah Hughes,” Gochnour explained, “after she went from fourth place to the gold, said, ‘Not everybody gets the chance to skate the performance of their life.’ ”
I nearly stopped the show. Suddenly, I wasn’t interested in anything else.
I’ve pondered the statement since, and it’s taken on three parts in my mind. The first part that Hughes stated — not everybody gets the chance to skate the performance of his or her life. The second part — not everybody would take the chance, if given it. And third — not everybody would skate the performance, if given the chance.
Of course, this chance of a lifetime isn’t just handed out randomly. The grand bestowers of chances didn’t walk up and down the aisles at the Delta Center that night in 2002 selecting individuals willy nilly to skate. That chance came only to an individual who was prepared, more than prepared, unreasonably prepared.
I search my soul today — what am I unreasonably prepared to do? Anything? Is there any skill I have that, if given the chance, I would be ready to “skate the performance of my life” in? Am I ready for the broadcasting moment of my life? The mothering moment of my life? The writing moment of my life? Am I so prepared that, if given the chance, I could rise to the occasion?
But that’s only the first part of the equation. The second part involves taking the chance. Not everyone would, if given the chance, take it. I have heard it described as fear of failure or fear of success, but in either case, I have seen very talented people who are prepared sabotage their opportunities so that, when the moment comes and the chance is given, they are not in a position to skate. Sometimes health or family, the need for more (translation endless) preparation, a sense of the timing not being right, or any number of other real or imagined obstacles gets in the way of our taking the chance to skate the performance of our lives.
And finally, if we get the chance and we take it, would we actually deliver? Would we skate the performance of our lives? Would that level of outrageous preparation and love, for what else could create this kind of magic except love, come together in the moment to create something that transcends self, transcends technical ability and lifts the human spirit? Because that is the effect of excellence in any endeavor, is it not? The human spirit is lifted.
I don’t care if you’ve never watched a wrestling match before. You are caught up in the passion of it. If you’ve never seen hurdles or uneven bars or butterfly, it doesn’t matter. Even curling will get you. The devotion and talent that have met in the moment produce such a magical response in the athlete and audience member alike, which is why you will see tears of joy running down the faces of fans, and sometimes even of attendees who thought themselves disinterested.
What I would like to suggest is that this magic is not limited to the athlete. We can skate the performance of our lives in the simplest of places. There may not be worldwide audiences watching, so at least in that way, perhaps there is a noted difference. But in the ways that matter, we will be given the chance to fly. And I am just optimistic enough to believe that we are given more than one, even many, if we are open to them. What will tell us if we are successful is the same feeling Sarah Hughes had when she skated off the ice. She felt larger than life.
That feeling is not limited to Olympic athletes. I see parents have it when their children call their names. I see employees have it when their ideas are recognized in front of their co-workers. I see wives and husbands have it when their spouses show them devotion they didn’t think possible. I see it when the creative spirit is nurtured and encouraged in endeavors of every variety in people of all ages.
No medals are necessary to hang around our necks. No anthems need to be played. The goose bumps come anyway.
You have just skated the performance of your life.