At first, there are no words. As I listen to the now notorious Lance Armstrong interview, I find myself struggling to comprehend the blatant disconnect between what he’s saying and what he actually did. But it’s not long before my confusion turns to anger, blood boiling, bordering on rage.
Lord knows Armstrong is not the first professional athlete to cheat and then lie about it. The behavior has become a rather disturbing par-for-the-course in professional sports. But unlike, say, the egotistical Barry Bonds, Armstrong was revered as a survivor, an inspiration – a hero. Honors he never deserved to have and responsibilities he abused every step of the way.
So my disgust stems from the fact that as a fitness professional and a staff member at the Darien YMCA, I dedicate every hour of my day to educating, motivating—and yes, inspiring—people to become better versions of their current selves. From children to adults, my colleagues and I strive to teach the importance of hard work, dedication, and that oh-so-critical attribute of strong moral character as the pillars of success. But, as Armstrong’s story proves, when driven by greed, there’s always another way.
That said, I refuse to be disappointed. Instead, I find the urge to ask all of us to stop looking up to personalities on pedestals and to start looking around us, to the everyday people in our lives who are doing extraordinary things. Earlier this week, we named our first-ever Member of the Month at the Y, a daunting task considering that over 5,000 local residents call our facility home. We chose Ali Rahbar (pictured above), a member who has lost over 80lbs. in the past year and a half, armed with nothing more but hard work, dedication and a membership to the Darien YMCA.
When I interviewed Ali about his transformation earlier this week, he was candid in his admission that the process has been incredibly difficult, saying that at times it “sucked” to the point where he contemplated giving up. I understood these emotions all too well, because continuously, consciously choosing the right thing—whether that’s passing on a piece of chocolate cake or a performance-enhancing substance—is hard. It’s precisely what makes the journey so rewarding. It’s what differentiates between victory and legitimate triumph.
So I’m choosing to call Ali my hero, and I hope you can find an Ali of your own. I mean, to me, that’s the true definition of a “level playing field”: finding motivation from someone who walks besides you and accomplishes their own goals.