Tonight I watched the incredible men’s 4×100 freestyle relay. The United States Olympic swim team put to bed the taunting from the French team, destroyed the prior world record, and took home the Gold, all in one fell swoop.

The entire race was awe-inspiring, to say the least. But the crowning moment, as Jason Lezak swam the final 50-meter leg, was watching Michael Phelps (who swam first) cheer his teammate on.

Michael Phelps has set the astonishing goal of winning eight gold medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, beating Mark Spitz’s prior record of seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympics. All this after breaking his wrist last October.

He eats, sleeps, and breathes swimming. He has made it his dream and has worked tirelessly to make it happen. Now that the events are here, he’s checking the golds off one by one. Having now already won two gold medals, with six more to go, the 23-year-old says, “I’m not downplaying this race by any means, but I have to put it behind me. I have to act like it never happened, because I have so many tough races ahead of me.”

Every event he’s in is filled with people that woke up that day with one intent: to beat him. But in spite of all the odds, in spite of the daunting amount of energy and hard work it will take, Phelps has set his sights high and is going for the gold—eight of them, to be exact.

For a constant reminder of what he’s working for, he has written and posted his goals right next to his bed so they are the first thing that he sees every morning. They are his first real conscious thought. Every night, they are the last thing he sees—his last real conscious thought.

What a remarkable example of human potential. What a prime illustration of how we can set our aim on something more, and do what it takes to achieve it. Not hampered by “realistic thinking,” people like Phelps make their own reality by daring to hope, daring to dream, and daring to do the work necessary to make it all come true.

Good luck, Michael, and welcome to my list of heroes.


P.S.  For further stories on Phelps and last nights race, see also…

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