There were many amazing stories from the Summer Olympics this year. But if you've yet to find your calling and truly excel at it, there's one story in particular you should absolutely know.
It's about Gwen Jorgensen, the American woman who took the gold medal in the Olympic triathlon.
Her story is inspiring--but there are a lot of other inspiring stories. (Like this one, if you somehow missed it.)
Instead, you need to know about Jorgensen because her story demonstrates exactly what you need to do to become insanely successful at your true calling. It involves an idea I've taken to calling, the Rule of Good Enough.
The most important phone call
Jorgensen had been a talented swimmer and runner in college, but she hasn't been good enough to be considered elite. So, her story begins, for our purposes, in 2010, when she was working as an accountant at Ernst & Young--literally spending her days in a cubicle.
She says she loved the work, but it turns out there was something missing. Then, she got a phone call from USA Triathlon, the organization officially in charge of the sport in the United States.
Triathlon isn't very old, as a sport. The French developed it, and Americans didn't really pay attention at all until the 1970s at the earliest. It's only been in the Olympics since 2000, and until this year the United States had won only one medal--a bronze in Athens in 2004.
That's mainly why USA Triathlon had gone on a recruiting spree--trying to find American athletes who had competed in swimming, biking and running, but who hadn't quite cracked the top echelon.
"My joy in this job is giving a second chance to athletes who never made it to the absolute top of their sport," Barb Lindquist, who ran the program, told The Wall Street Journal in 2014.
Don't quit your day job (yet)
Jorgensen, though she'd never even been in a bike race, fit the bill. She did well in her first race, and began competing and training at an elite level--even while maintaining her full-time job. She talked earlier this year about going to swim practice in the early morning and then running 13 miles to work before starting her job at E&Y at 8 a.m., in an interview with Forbes.
She rose through the ranks, and made the Olympics in London in 2012, although she finished a disappointing 38th (she had a flat tire during the bike section of the race).
But with that experience under her belt, she set her sights on Rio, and took an indefinite leave of absence from her job, so she could work full time.
Last week, it paid off, and she walked away with the gold medal.
The Rule of Good Enough
Jorgensen's story is so useful because it illustrates how a successful person had to ignore and embrace her failures in order to achieve greatness.
She wasn't ever going to reach the pinnacle of swimming or running, but when you combine her not-quite-elite talents in both of those sports, it turned out she was good enough to make her truly world class in a different sport that she hadn't even considered.
The lessons are applicable to almost anyone trying to find his or her true passion and achieve. So often people are told that their dreams are unrealistic, or that the competition is too steep, or that they don't have any real chance of succeeding at their goals--and we might be tempted to tell them to persevere if they want to achieve.
As disappointing as that is to hear, however, that might be terrible advice. Because not everyone can succeed, if they're attempting what turns out to be the wrong goal.
True winners instead sometimes realize that they have to pivot. Often that involves marrying "good enough" skills in two or three different disciplines, which can enable them to become truly elite in a new field they hadn't thought of before.
So if you're starting today in a place you don't want to be, ask yourself what's your triathlon? What talent do you have that might--especially when you combine them with another seemingly unrelated talent--give you an edge in a completely different discipline?
Figure that one out, and you might wind up with a gold medal of your own.