Phelps, Phun & Consequences

michael phelps

“Youth is wasted on the young.”
~ George Bernard Shaw

With all the excitement about Michael Phelps in the media recently, I felt it was a good time to jump in, but not necessarily pile on. If, for some reason you haven’t heard, Phelps was photographed with his face half-way down a water pipe (bong), less than ideal if you’ve just brought back a record eight Gold medals for your country and you have endorsements that total into the multi-millions.

My take on this is fairly straightforward – one very stupid decision. Having said that, the general public has absolutely no idea how tightly wound this kid has been since a very young age. Just try to imagine the patience, discipline and focus he’s had to practice and endure for not just a few years, but the majority of his young life! He is only 23. And, while I absolutely think it was a grave mistake, I’m hopeful we all recognize he is a young man. Young people make mistakes and then hopefully learn from them.

Try to imagine you are 23 years old and on the cover of every magazine from TIME to PEOPLE – you’re a national celebrity, yet, you just want to relate to your peers WITHOUT all the hype. You want to fit-in and be like the others, without the celebrity. My guess is that was his desire in that social/party type atmosphere. Sure, the way he went about it was less than ideal, but his intentions were innocent. He certainly didn’t set out to let people down, tarnish the image of a country, or jeopardize endorsements or a swimming career.

Talent will get you to the top, but it’s character that will keep you there.”
~ John Wooden

To me, this is where his story actually becomes interesting. To see how he handles this adversity. My hope is he uses this to his advantage. He can undoubtedly use his celebrity, athleticism, endorsements AND even bad decisions and create something positive – perhaps educating kids about drug use and consequence (just throwing that out there).

Yes, the entire second chapter of “The 3 C’s of Succcess” is devoted to CHARACTER. This “event” simply underscores John Wooden’s classic quote and the incredible importance of character to attain life-long success.

I fully recognize we have to be accountable for our actions and I fully recognize to “whom much is given – much is expected.” It’s my belief however, that Michael understands this as well. He could not have come so far so fast without being of very sound character and incredibly disciplined. However, no one lives in a vacuum – this event helps to illustrate how dynamic and quickly life can change and why character and integrity require ‘right’ habits and actions on a daily basis.

The American public has always been very quick to build up its heroes and even quicker to tear them down. Can we really throw a lifetime of discipline, training and 14 gold medals away for one bad decision?

It’s a good thing Phelps has the shoulders of an Olympic swimmer; they will come in handy under the increased pressure and scrutiny that comes with being a national hero. All the best MP – I think you know where to take this from here.

Youth is indeed wasted on the young, and that is how it’s meant to be.