An Olympic Story Worth Remembering
This year’s Winter Olympics are quickly fading into memory as sports fans turn their focus to the 2020 summer version in Tokyo.
Still, I think it’s worth calling attention to a story that wound up in the backdrop of the recent gold medal hysteria.
The Associated Press feature appeared just before the Games in South Korea wrapped up, under the headline: “Most Olympians will never get rich, and that’s OK with them.”
It reviewed the reality for the bulk of competitors: they will never get a lucrative endorsement deal. Indeed, they toil in relative obscurity and balance the demands of daily life with the intense training needed to compete.
As a member of the Canadian curling team put it: “If you’re curling because you want to be a millionaire, you’re in the wrong sport.”
It matters not what the endeavor: athletics, acting, music, speaking, teaching, or business (to name a few). Most people won’t earn riches or fame, walk the red carpet, or clutch the small statue.
As a writer and editor, I like to say there’s folks like Stephen King, John Grisham, and Danielle Steele—or in the Christian world, Jerry Jenkins—and then there’s the rest of us.
It didn’t take long after my first commercially-published work came out to discover the reality of literary fame (or lack thereof).
Granted it was a big deal to me. It was a dream come true, a long road that took countless hours and nearly four years before the manuscript wound up between two covers. With a cover endorsement from now-retired NBA star A.C. Green, no less.
But, in a collective sense, the rest of the world yawned. The publisher printed 10,000 copies and sold just over half before the remainder went into a bargain bin or to the lead author, who used them for speaking engagements. Then they gave the rights back to us.
Every writer who is honest would confess to wanting that best-seller for the validation, speaking invitations, and financial rewards that can accompany such status.
Yet like those Olympians who never stand in the limelight, most of us won’t achieve that. And that’s okay.
I still remember the excitement I felt when learning that, after the first two books I helped write came out in paperback, #3 would be a hardcover edition.
Then, I got even more excited when I learned the first printing had sold out in three months.
Just before its release, I’d had lunch with the editor, who told me they were running 20,000. I had a provision in my contract that if the book sold over that number, I would receive a bonus.
First, I called the editor to verify that it had indeed passed that mark. That’s when I learned they had cut the first printing to 12,000 copies.
Oh, and by the way, that magical 20,000 figure only applied to retail sales. Since the bulk of the sales came on the author’s speaking tour, I never saw a bonus.
I’ve had other books appear in hardcover since then. And I have also learned they don’t feel any different than a softbound book.
The Road to Happiness
As I age (and it happens so quickly), I’m learning that friendship and serving others offer the kind of intangible rewards that money and status can never provide.
A woman I interviewed recently for a story on a church that has organized a foster care ministry made this remark: “Until you learn to live beyond yourself, I don’t think you’re really lived.”
Or, as Paul advised: “Be devoted to one another with brotherly love; prefer one another in honor . . . be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord, rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer, contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality” (Romans 12:10-13 MEV).
Happiness and fulfillment aren’t found in the spotlight.