Your Weakness Is Your Superpower
In 2014, Michael Phelps, the most decorated American swimmer in history, was caught driving drunk while speeding.
Because of this, he was suspended from competing and representing the United States in an off year World competition.
After this story hit, the facade of the olympic athlete had been shattered. This wasn’t his first round of bad press; back in 2009 he was also photographed with a bong at a party which confessed that it was him and that the photo was authentic.
His popularity sank and he lost all of his endorsement deals, including two very large ones from Speedo and SubWay (although, we could argue that the pot allegation should have increased his SubWay sponsorship, but that’s a totally different blog post).
Between the end of 2014 and the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Phelps had dedicated himself to training and to return to the podium to win Olympic Gold.
Phelps did a very interesting thing, one that’s rare when it comes to athletes and celebrities these days…
He owned up to his actions and took responsibility for what he did. Knowing full well that it was going to cause him to lose contracts, lose faith, and possibly end his career, he still held his head high, owned his actions and faced the consequences.
But the climax of the story happened between the fallout and the Olympics.
Everyone Loves A Comeback Story
- The Mighty Ducks
- Heck, even Dodgeball
Audiences love seeing someone who had everything, lose it all and then come back from behind to win. It’s an archetypal model that resonates with every audience.
Most of us want to shy away from the hardest parts of our lives. We really didn’t want to live them, let alone go around and tell others about how terrible we messed up or how awful our situations are.
And frankly, sometimes you just don’t want to sound like you’re complaining.
But the comeback story is a powerful and moving tool that you have somewhere in your toolbox.
At some point in your life, you hit a low point. And if you haven’t, well, good for you. You’ve been blessed and should be humbled by your great fortune.
But most of you have had those lows.
Whether it was by the choices you made or the situations that you found yourself in, those lows helped to build you up to who you are today.
It’s not asking for pity from anyone - that’s the last thing anyone should give you from your story.
What you’re trying to show is that even in the darkest of situations, you can find the strength to pull yourself up.
“Pull yourself up by your bootstraps”
I love this saying.
You really don’t know your own potential until you have to create a miracle out of thin air.
Russel Brunson’s One Funnel Away Challenge is an interesting course in which you put yourself back up against a wall to see what you can do in 30 days with only the resources you have at your disposal right now to push you to your limits to succeed.
Athletes are an incredible example of this principle.
It’s much easier to see success in a field of competition than it is in business - there are far more intricacies in business as well as life compared to athletic competitions.
I’m by no means demeaning the accomplishments of an athlete or belittling the struggles they go through - they are very real and very powerful.
But their examples are much easier to see because they are far better documented on film and in the context of competition, we only have to focus on one thing.
In other words, the conclusion is always the same - it’s in the heat of competition - win or lose…
But the story takes place between the lines.
This is where their struggle - and your struggle takes place.
The path you’ve taken to get to where you are is a gift, even when it doesn’t feel like it. You’ve been given the gift of the struggle in order for you to overcome it.
But the meaning of the gift isn’t for your success.
You gained success, you got your reward from it. But there is a larger purpose.
You are the example for others. What you have gone through is worse than what most will go through. If you can make it, so can others. You simply need to share that experience for their benefit.
It’s paying it forward.
You were given a gift (albeit, a painful gift) that has given you a great deal better insight into the struggles of success than most others will ever experience. And that’s what made you strong - and it’s what will make others strong.
Those closest to him helped Phelps to get back to the Olympics in 2016, and he was welcomed with open arms - even before he swam a single race.
Images of Michael holdings his baby and hugging his wife and mother were front and center of the audience.
We saw the redemption story.
He had it all, he fell, and then he came back again.
The 2016 Olympics wouldn’t have been as moving a story for Phelps if it weren’t for his fall from grace. It helped him cement his place into history and help endear him to the hearts of millions.
Young athletes can look to Phelps as inspiration, as others will look to your story as inspiration as well.
We all love a redemption story - the weakness you showcase will become your superpower to help others.