Bode Miller's Winter Games
Ego and pride are great strengths for athletes. They make you work hard. They are incredible motivators. But they’re also huge weaknesses. Most athletes don’t recognize that other side of ego and pride. You just have to recognize that being an athlete, you have to be willing to constantly test yourself and be willing to accept that maybe the best you have is not good enough. A lot of athletes do not want to find that out. It’s just fear.
A lot of athletes won’t take the risk of blowing it. Everybody else can pump your tires all day, but that one catch — that one time where you hang it out there and you know that you may look like a total jackass right now — it’s fifty thousand times more important than what everybody else thinks about me.
For a male athlete, ego and pride are two of the most important things and are what drive a lot of athletes into sports — they want that reinforcement.
Defining your own version of success sometimes has nothing to do with the version of success that everybody else has. For me, getting up and striking out twice was a success. It was a success because I know that people in the stands and my family were worried I was going to embarrass myself. For me, getting up there and taking my cuts and trying to focus as hard as I could, and making an effort to actually hit the ball, even though I ended up absolutely whiffing — that was a success for me. That was all I could do.
Success was for me to come in there like the game was on the line and do everything in my power to hit the ball, even though I knew there was a huge chance that I would not do anything right at all. That was awesome for me. A lot of people don’t understand that. They don’t understand that you can define your own success. And it has nothing to do with what everybody else says.
That’s one of the major issues with me that confuses everybody. I define my own versions of success. The fact that I’m good at sports makes people think I like to win. The fact is, my version of success is to be able to objectively analyze myself and my effort and my focus, and know that I was doing everything I could do. The pursuit of your ability — the things that a lot of homeschooled kids care about — is a common thread.
People think that I want to win — or I pursue winning. But my winning is a byproduct of the pursuit to find out what I’m capable of, of always making sure that I give everything I’ve got, and that I focus, and that I analyze what needs to be done. Those are awesome challenges for me that don’t really have much to do with being competitive in itself.
One of the things that throws people off is that I don’t ever get pissed off when I lose. The only time I get mad is when I know I didn’t do everything I could have. A lot of times that happens even when I win. For me, a win, if I don’t perform my best, if I don’t hammer the focus in, doesn’t mean shit.
That’s why the Olympics were different for me than for others. I was so focused. I was intense. Those races were awesome that way. I didn’t do well, but I did everything I could do to do well. My focus wasn’t to beat everybody else. If it had been, maybe I would have changed my tactics a little bit.
There are some things that I know about myself for that sport — that if I’m too aggressive in super-G and downhill, I pinch all the time. But it’s way more fun for me, it feels like 100 percent, and I put myself in really difficult situations a lot. Where I blew out in the super-G and in the downhill, I pinched and had to make some great recoveries. Whereas if I had just wanted to win the race, I could ski more like at 85 percent and much more casual, relaxed. It allows me to be more fluid on the line, but it doesn’t feel as fun to me. It’s not like I’m racing.