November 26, 2019
“The goal isn’t to live forever; it is to create something that will.”
- Chuck Palahniuk
This is one of my favorite quotes, and one that guides my actions every day. In order to leave a lasting impact on this earth, you must travel along the path, bringing others along with you as you move forward. It does no good if I win gold in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games and not share with an up-and-coming athlete the best practices that will aid their athletic success. Team USA will be around long after I’m done with the sport.
It’s only right to help develop new talent so that our country can continue to be successful for years to come. I have a lot to offer up-and-coming athletes when it comes to training, competing, and (of course) vision. But beyond that, I am a lesson in longevity and perseverance. I’ve medaled in four Paralympic games, and I am now training for my fifth. At the age of 35, I’ve just brought home my fourth consecutive world championship and set a new championship-record distance of 6.45 meters (a little over 21 feet for those who are metrically-challenged). And I am still the world record holder in the long jump in my category. Let’s just say, I’ve been around the block.
A pinch of reality and a dash of humility
Oftentimes, highly successful athletes are insecure. It seems they’re afraid that if their "secret to success” gets out, someone else will come along and take their crown. Listen, just because I give you the recipe, doesn’t guarantee the food is going to taste the same as when I cook it. And if you do improve on it, if it does taste better, I hope you plan on sharing some with me! Athletes are bigger, stronger, and faster than ever before. At the Paralympic World Championships in Dubai last week, there were a total of 43 new world records that were set. 43!
Eventually, my world record will fall, but how great of a legacy will I have if I help usher in the new generation of American long jumpers to break that record? It would mean a lot to the visually impaired who are inspired to try new things. It would mean a lot to me, to know that I can continue to give back to the sport that’s given me the world, even when my jumping days are done. Champions are champions because they understand that building well-rounded people is much more important than building individual success. Champions are champions because they recognize that to help others allows a greater number of people to thrive and operate on a grander scale. Champions are champions because they understand that legacy has no expiration date.
It will live forever.
Lead by example
So, get out there and compose new music that ignites inspiration. Write a book of life lessons geared toward building human beings who value character over currency. Create an after-school program to foster academic excellence in students living in underserved areas. Or simply offer someone an uplifting word they can latch on to as they navigate this crazy world. Some things are here today and gone tomorrow, but it doesn’t have to be this way. I challenge you to find that one thing that will live forever, and ever, and ever.