Redefine What’s Ordinary: The Pool of Success

“I like to just think of myself as a normal person who just has a passion, has a goal and a dream and goes out and does it. And that’s really how I’ve always lived my life.”  –Michael Phelps


“I think that everything is possible as long as you put your mind to it and you put the work and time into it. I think your mind really controls everything.” –Michael Phelps


I could say that I had always wanted to learn how to swim. And I wouldn’t be lying. Up until 2 weeks ago, the problem was found in the time and energy I was willing to put forth into figuring it out. Let me break this down in terms of proximity.

I went ahead and calculated the total distance between myself and the realization of my goal in terms of feet. Are you ready? Here it is …*clears throat*…


Exactly 0 ft.


Interesting, isn’t it? There wasn’t any lack of pool to help me learn the right technique and internalize it. The arena that I needed was right around me. In fact, I was literally up to my neck in opportunity. I even had sound instruction, but never followed it consistently. It was way easier to stand off to the side, let my feet touch the ground, and slowly trudge through the resistance to get to where I wanted to be.

Isn’t that all of us? We love to talk about how badly we want a better job. We pass the time talking about where we’d like to travel, what kind of shape we’d like to be in, and even for the believer of God, how we wish we could know God the way so-and-so does. The desire and motivation isn’t the problem. Your lack of action and time invested is.

We always hear about action. It’s the dessert of every motivational movie and speech that ended with us saying “Man, that makes me want to get out there and try it!” It’s also the start of every year. New Year’s Resolutions are a well-worded want and usually fizzle out by June. Why? Because the truth is, if it doesn’t take less than a year to achieve, then most of us will never bother to see our progress through to the end. Hence, an Old New Year’s Resolution is usually 365 days away from January 1st.

Here’s a word of advice: Start resolving and don’t stop until you’re finished. Talk is cheap and consistency is in demand. Time and Action go hand in hand. It’s really that simple. This is why the above quotes from Michael Phelps are basic in nature and honest about our shortcomings. He knows what he wants, decides that he doesn’t want anything short of victory, and spends the amount of energy and time necessary to reach success. All as a “normal person”. Let’s play a little game called Find the Normal Person In the Room. The beauty of this game is that you could be alone in a mirror maze and I guarantee you’d find a winner. Because we’re all capable of greatness on our own stage. We just need to become the right kind of “normal”.

Going “all in” can sometimes mean meeting the price of success with exact change. It’s not just commendable, it’s required. And anything less will leave you coming up short.

Are you holding onto the walls of the pool of success? Letting go every now and then, but only an arm’s length away from safety? Here’s the thing. Going “all in” can sometimes mean meeting the price of success with exact change. It’s not just commendable, it’s required. And anything less will leave you coming up short.

Do you swim without treading water? Can you navigate your way through the obstacles, only going far enough into the deep so as to “keep your head above water”? Standing in what’s easy and manageable, this is the watery graveyard of most big dreams. We get comfortable and miss out on the vast rewards of “going off the deep end”. Again, easy is not the same as effective. Ever heard the phrase “Sink or swim”? It’s the equivalent of putting yourself in a position where you have no choice but to do better and become more. It’s a special place the successful venture to because they want more than just enough.

Do you learn enough for the day, but forget to cultivate and add to your training? That was me. I knew the basic mechanics of an experienced swimmer, I put it into practice, and at the end of a good day of trying, that’s all I was left with for the next few years: A good day of trying. Ever-trying, but never truly matching desire with action and time needed for a return on my investment.

Go and train for that job you’ve been thinking of applying for. Get another one for that trip you’ve been wanting to take. Eat right and exercise often. Draw near to God and watch Him draw near to you. With one life to live, do we really want to spend our time in the pool of success barely getting by and always in a state of trying? Or do we want to glide in the deep, confident in our ability to explore a world away from effort that never goes rewarded above the surface? A good friend of mine used to say that sometimes you have to give up what’s good for what’s great. Reach your full potential and be tenacious about it. The Michael Phelpses of this world won’t be fully accounted for, because showing up is only half the battle. Keep on showing up. And whatever you do, do it now.