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Posted by johnnieraz on February 9, 2025 at 1:45 AM

Inspiration is all around us, don’t let it pass you by —

be present, recognize, and embrace it. It’s truly magical

and a launching pad for your next adventure.

— Kristin Armstrong Savola

     By John Rezell

     As the latest polar vortex zaps the deep freeze on most of the country it's easy to surrender and just hunker down to survive. While you might surrender a moment, never surrender life.

     Kristin posted those inspirational words on Facebook the other day. It's easy to look at someone like Kristin, who shattered conventional wisdom by winning not one, not two but three Olympic gold medals in cycling's individual time trial — a discipline where maintaining excellence for a season or two is challenging enough, much less three Olympiads.

     In Kristin's hometown of Boise, Idaho she's revered as a hero. Her story inspires countless folks, from gruffy grandpas to zealous young girls. Covering the town's celebration of her third gold medal inspired me.

     It's so easy to be inspired by someone who has conquered challenges, thus igniting our fascination with athletes and other celebrities. But as Kristin points out so insightfully, inspiration can come from a myriad of sources.

     There is, however, a danger that lurks out there. It's mistaking inspiration and emulation.

     Inspiration can be the spark that lights the fire, that motivates you to push yourself to excel in your own area of expertise or interest. It creates your dream that can lift you up on your darkest days. Dreams come in all shapes and sizes, but the true reward of making a dream come true isn't the dream itself. It's the realization you can do anything if you refuse to quit. It's empowering beyond imagination.

     Emulation can fester and foster failure as easily as success. Emulation focuses on specifics with success attached only in matching or surpassing a goal or person, more concerned with simply being the best and accepting nothing less rather than zeroing in on being the best you can be and accepting where that falls in the grand scheme.

     The obsession to be the best can lead to tunnel vision, where balance in all its shapes and forms becomes the victim. I've seen many athletes succumb to that obsession and have it eventually destroy their dreams and themselves. Those who manage to maintain balance thrive beyond the playing fields, and continue to inspire long after athletics have left their lives.

     I remember a polar vortex so many years ago, as the chill iced over my dreams for a spell. Enduring temperatures of minus-20 can take the joy out of any job. Retreating indoors can conjur up cabin fever. It can feel a bit overwhelming.

     Rather than climb beneath my covers in a warm bed, I sat on the living room floor listening to music late into the night not necessarily aware of what I was searching for.

     Then the haunting sound of a harmonica stirred something deep inside of me.

       A memory of hearing that performed live, under a sparkling clear Wisconsin sky with a full moon shining brightly at Alpine Valley just a few months before, sent an electrical shock though every cell in my body. Bruce Springsteen sang to me with words of inspiration:

     Some guys they just give up living,

     And start dying little by little, piece by piece,

     Some guys come home from work and wash up,

     And go racin' in the street ...

     Just a few weeks later we left the comfortable life we created in the Midwest to chase dreams in California. Just chasing those dreams inspired and empowered us. And our lives have never been the same.


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