Life, Work and the Olympics

Remember, Steve Jobs was the one who said that we’re here to not merely make a difference but to “make a dent in the universe.”


One of the things that has always astonished me about the Olympics is the commitment, dedication and zeal exhibited by the world’s athletes, not just on the global stage where the events are held, but also—perhaps more so—in the places that the public never sees, the long days of struggling and effort to become masterful at their chosen endeavor.

While every single woman and man who takes to the fields at the Olympic events are truly world class, clearly there are those who have exceedingly greater likelihoods of winning medals than others.  Yet those others are no less engaged in what they do.  They were no less engaged in their preparation.  They were no less engaged in doing the work that brought them to Rio.

In fact, some of those others may have had to make greater sacrifices in order to get there despite undoubtedly knowing that someone from the U.S., Russia, Germany, the U.K. or China is more likely to take the podium.

They didn’t quit.  They worked.  They worked harder than I certainly ever have or will because their level of work is something that I can’t even begin to imagine.  But whether they feel the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat, they undoubtedly feel deeply that they tried their very best, not just at the moment of the event, but throughout what it took to get them there.

Last month in this space I wrote about my disappointment in what was found in a survey taken by Adecco Staffing USA among Gen Z and Millennial students: 69 percent of them “would rather have a stable job lacking passion than a job they feel passionately about but that lacks stability.”

Several of you wrote to me indicating that I was missing the point, that there is an underlying need to have a job that is going to pay the bills.

Yes, I get that.

But I still maintain that those who are passionate about what they do, who are committed to what they do, who think that they are making a positive difference with what they do, who are engaged in what they do—and I don’t care if this is styling a supercar or working on a stamping line—are likely to (1) do a better job than those who are simply doing it for the paycheck; (2) keep their job when things go south because their managers are likely to know who is engaged and who is counting the days until vacation or retirement; (3) feel better about themselves at the end of the day.

Yes, it is work.  It is a job.  It is something that we must do for our families and ourselves.

But it can be more.

If he didn’t turn out to be so right and so successful Steve Jobs would have been considered by many as a crazy SOB.  Remember, he was the one who said that we’re here to not merely make a difference but to “make a dent in the universe.”

Jobs, as you will recall, died from complications related to pancreatic cancer at age 56.

And the size of the dent that he made was prodigious.

Jobs once said: “We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it.”

When Jobs died, his net worth was estimated to be $10.2-billion.

When Jobs was merely 23, he was a millionaire.

Lucky?  Maybe.  Hard work, commitment, zeal?  Absolutely.

Jobs also said: “We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it.”

It better be worth it.

Those Olympic athletes are likely never to become millionaires to say nothing of billionaires.

But win or lose, you know that they are striving for excellence.

Shouldn’t the rest of us?

“Because this is our life.”