This is something that you don't want to skim. Read it all. Training with a champion's mindset, especially amid difficult adversities, is an extremely rare quality to possess.
David was so close to making the 2012 Olympic Team. The top two in an event make it. At the 2012 Olympic Swimming Trials, he placed third missing the team by 12-hundredths of a second. He had represented the United States at various major international competitions throughout his career, but all that was secondary as his ultimate goal was to make the US Olympic Team.
Fast-forward four years later, Plummer touched the wall at the end of the 100-meter backstroke final at the United States Olympic Swimming Trials and looked up at the scoreboard to see the number two next to his name. Plummer, at age 30, became the oldest first-time Olympic swimmer since 1904.
The personal essay below (shared with his permission) recalls what it felt like to have the courage and bravery to continue pursuing a dream, but moreover a love for swimming. It is a good reminder that even in our darkest hours, if we have the courage and grit to believe in ourselves anything is truly possible.
Belief – by David Plummer
Is it possible to believe yourself capable of accomplishing something you have never accomplished before? The easy answer is yes. It is done every day. A man built the first plane and made it fly. A woman cured a disease and saved lives. A man ran faster than anyone ever thought possible.
But to truly believe yourself capable of something that not only you, but no one has ever done must take something amazing. A deep-seeded belief and sense of self worth. A confidence that borders on irrationality. A desire that burns the soul.
I believe I fit this category. I believe all these things to be true about myself. I want to achieve my goal more than anything else in my life. I dream about it awake and asleep. It truly haunts me to the point that I feel that if I don’t achieve it, then my time has been wasted.
I know the usual line, “if you learned something and had fun, then it was worth it.” I don’t believe this to be true. Not when you set out to do something truly great. Ask the man who failed his climb of Everest when the weather turned. Ask the woman who set out to swim from Cuba to Florida and was pulled from the water with life threatening box-jelly fish stings. Ask the man who never broke 4:00 in the mile. Don’t listen to the words they answer with, but look into their eyes and see the dream they came so close to achieving.
So why, with all of this burning desire, do I question or doubt myself? I truly believe myself capable. I pour my heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears into my work. I would cut off my leg if it meant I could have what I want, what I have worked so hard for. And yet, three times I have come up short. I have measured myself against the best and failed.
Put into perspective, most do fail. There are more athletes out there that have come close to glory than have truly achieved it. Put simply, for someone to win others must to lose.
And now, at this point in my life… I can’t give up. I don’t know how to give up. Sometimes I think that I don’t have what it takes. But that’s not true either. I have it all, just under the surface, waiting to be let out. All I need is the arena. All I need is the opportunity, but therein lies the rub: four more years until that opportunity comes again. Between now and then I could prove myself the best in the world over and over, but it means nothing when I step into the arena and face my fears.
My fears. So familiar they are to me they seem like old friends. I know them all so well. Doubt, the most common and the hardest to shake. Disappointment, the one trying to make you give up. Anger, ready to ruin your well thought out plan. And fear itself, the worst by far. Fear encapsulates everything in your way within itself. Fear tells you that you aren’t good enough. Fear tells you how good everyone else is. Fear with take your strengths from you and exploit your weaknesses. Fear will ruin you… if you let it.
So what do you do? What do you do when confronted by your worst fears? What do you do when your well thought out plan is jeopardized by fear? When it is all around you and all you can see?
In my career I have come across two answers:
One: Maintain perspective on where you are, where you have been and what it took you to get there.
While they are both extremely important, one is easier to achieve. Fear will trick you into thinking that you have achieved the second, then take it from you when you need it most. Belief must come from the core of your being. It must lie under your fear, under your want, under your desires, dreams and goals, under all you have accomplished and all you ever hope to accomplish. This is where you must believe.
This is the place where I believe, but my fear took that belief away from me. I could tell you everything I felt after my I let my fear ruin my moment, but it means little. Suffice it to say that my dream was gone in an instant and I was left wondering what happened.
Now, as they say, I will double my efforts. I will do everything in my control to come back stronger, faster and more aware of what my fear can take from me. I will learn from my mistakes and come back better than before. I will succeed.