Earlier today I was reading an interview with Dani Alves in which he reflects on his career, his time in Europe, his recent return to Brazil – as well as his determination to remain at the peak of his sport until the next football World Cup at the age of 39. I was struck by his thoughts on success, and his belief that what matters is not the medal, or the trophy, but the commitment you show to giving your best:
“Success is giving your best. Achievement is depriving yourself of things to get to where great young people aim to be. You have to say: ‘I’m here, focused. I’ll put my blinkers on and nothing will put me off.’ Sometimes in life you have to be deaf, dumb and blind and let your soul carry you to get closer to your objectives. If you win without sacrifice, without effort, you will triumph with no glory at all.”
I have written before about the concerns I share with many other parents that maybe things in life can come a little too easily for some young people. I don’t want to repeat those concerns here, but I do want to share a thought or two about the role models we celebrate. Today’s youth is presented with so many examples of people who seem to achieve without effort. Overnight successes thanks to short-lived online likes or viral popularity. The cult of celebrity dumbed down to people made famous by what they broadcast from their living rooms.
And then we have the real role models… Not one-hit-wonders who are here today, gone tomorrow, but those in this world who have sweated, failed, fought back and triumphed over the odds. These are the role models we should share with our children, who we should celebrate, and whose determination and character we should hold up as an example to our children. Growing up, the role models I looked up to were mostly sportsmen and women like boxer and activist Muhammed Ali, four-time Olympic discus champion and artist Al Oerter, and Dame Mary Peters, whose performances in Women’s Pentathlon (as it was then) inspired unity in a nation divided in my childhood in the not-so United Kingdom at the time.
So who are the role models that you look up to? Do you share them with your children? And who do they look up to, and why?