Back in 1992, Reebok went “all-in” on an ad campaign touting the anticipated Barcelona Olympics’ decathlon competition between Dan O’Brien and Dave Johnson. The commercials appeared on television for months and everyone knew about “Dan vs. Dave”. They were destined to be the story of the summer Olympics that year.
Until Dan no-heighted in the pole vault portion of the decathlon at the US Olympic trials. By scoring no points in that discipline, he was mathematically eliminated from the competition, thus not qualifying for the US Olympic team. In an instant, the dream of the “Dan vs. Dave” ended. Here was an athlete at the top of his craft, on the verge of earning millions of dollars in endorsements, on the cusp of the crowning athletic achievement to which he had worked years to reach, who failed in titanic fashion.
Gary Gray was a cornerback on the 2011 Notre Dame football team. In high school, Gary received numerous accolades (Rated 13th best prep player nationally on ESPN 150 listing … named to the National 100 list by Fort Worth Star-Telegram … named to Super Southern 100 team for 2006 by Atlanta Journal-Constitution … listed 78th player nationally by Rivals.com). Heading into the 2011 season, he was considered the stronger of the two corners on the ND football team and a probable draft pick in the upcoming 2012 NFL Draft.
Until September 10, 2011, the Notre Dame/Michigan game in Ann Arbor. Gary had a very difficult game and was the victim of several large gains made by the Michigan offense. His play was dissected the following week by every sports blogger, fan board, and radio announcer. This is another example of a highly touted athlete who ultimately failed during an apex moment in his career.
Both these athletes had a choice. Pack Up or Get Back Up. In 1992, Dan O’Brien served as a television commentator for the Barcelona Olympics – he forced himself to watch and comment on the very competition he was expected to win. He began training again and four years later was on top of the medal stands in Atlanta with an Olympic Gold medal around his neck. Similarly, Gary Gray did not stay down. The very next week he went back out in front of 80,000+ fans and millions of viewers on television and made 10 tackles, good enough for the second highest total on the team, in an upset of a ranked Michigan State team. Gary Gray finished the 2011 football campaign 4th on the team in tackles and tied for the team lead in interceptions.
Many times in life we fail. Fortunately for us, most of our failures are not seen by millions of people, although private failures do not make the sting any less painful. As these two athletes have shown me, no matter how bad things may appear at the moment of my failures, I have to get back up and try again. I had a high school coach who would tell me everyday at practice, “It is not a sin to get knocked down, it is a sin to stay down.”
When conducting a job search, we all get knocked down. Job search burnout sets in. Fight the desire to give in and instead keep trying. To all those who have been knocked down by life, I hope you find the strength to get back up. Whatever it takes – inspirational stories, fear, anger, hope, dreams – to make you get up and try again, focus on that inspiration. I shared these two stories, find ones that inspire you and then go make your own personal inspirational story by getting back up.
PS: Dave Johnson did qualify for the Barcelona Olympics, but experienced a stress fracture to his foot during the first day of competition. He continued on in the competition and won the Bronze medal.