Life Changing Lessons from an Unusual Place – The Rio 2016 Olympics


THIS ARTICLE IS NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED. It is for the hungry….the motivated…champions in the making. It is for those IN the game not in the stands. It is for those that want to get the best out of life. This is not the one you quickly scan. It’s the one you digest and act on.

Now…The Olympics were fun…but more importantly, they were loaded with insights and life lessons that are invaluable but can be easy to miss. I have done the work for you by putting together some of the most powerful life and faith lessons from that event. Understand these, and I have no doubt that the positive results for your life will follow. THIS IS AN ARTICLE YOU WILL WANT TO SAVE, SHARE AND COME BACK TO OVER AND OVER AGAIN….AND YOU WONT REGRET IT.

So get your life pen, open your inner eyes and dig in.
Here we go:

1. In life, winning is not always about winning by a lot:

Winning is truly by the inches and the milliseconds. The difference between Gold and Silver is so small. In fact… the line between Gold and NO medal is so small. This was EVERYWHERE in the Olympics.

Look at these scores VERY CLOSELY and see how close they are:

–Women’s 400m winning time: Gold-49.44s / Silver-49.55s/ Bronze-49.85s (Difference between Gold and silver was just 7/100 OF 1 SECOND !!)
–Women’s Gymnastics winning points: Gold-15.966 / Silver-15.500/ Bronze-14.933/ 4th place (no medal)- 14.766
–Mens 400m winning time in seconds: Gold-43.03s/ Silver-43.76s/ Bronze-43.85s
–Women’s 4×100 Medley Swimming Relay winning time: Gold-3.53.13s/ Bronze-3:55:00s/ Bronze-3:55:01s
–Mens 110m hurdles winning time: Gold-13.05s/ Silver 13.17s/ Bronze- 13.24s / 4th place (no medal) – 13.29s (Just HALF OF ONE TENTH OF A SECOND FROM BRONZE MEDAL)

I could go on and on and on. This was how the majority of the Olympics turned out.

What does that mean for you?

The little things DO matter. They can make all the difference! Dont underestimate the little things. In fact…the more competitive your arena is, the more those little things will matter. So Identify, focus on and develop the things that give you little advantages in your competitive space.  In fact at the bottom of this post, ill give you a law/principle that you MUST understand in your life immediately.

2. The more chances you give yourself, the better your odds are:

You’ve heard it before. Life is a game of numbers. The more chances you have at getting something, the more likely you are to get that thing.

Perfect example from Rio: PAY VERY CLOSE ATTENTION:

According to the RIO 2016 Olympics website (, there were 11,721 total athletes from 207 countries, and there were 2102 possible medals to be won.

So I tallied up the all the medals won, got the top 4 countries with medal count, and tallied up the number of athletes they sent in proportion to all the other participating countries.

Here is what I discovered.


Let me make this clearer:

-The United States sent THE MOST athletes to Rio at 574 athletes (5% of total Olympic athletes ) and won THE MOST MEDALS at 121 medals (5.8% of total Olympics medals) …in almost exact proportion to the number of athletes they sent!

-China sent THE 2ND HIGHEST number of athletes to Rio at 417 athletes (3.6% of total Olympics athletes) and won THE 2ND HIGHEST MEDALS at 70 medals (3.3% of total Olympic medals)…in almost exact proportion to the number of athletes they sent!

-Same thing for GB and Russia respectively. GB had 3rd highest population of athletes and had 3rd highest medal count. Russia had 4th highest population of athletes and had 4th highest medal count….in almost exact proportion to the number of athletes they sent!

Yes…the countries that won the most medals were the countries that sent the most athletes and the number of medals won were proportional to the number of athletes sent.

This is as true in life as it is in the Olympics.

THINK about this. The more articles on a blog, quite often the more traffic it gets. The more products a retail store has, the more chances of making money on sales. The more shots at goal, the more likely you are to score. The more times you try, the more likely you are to succeed.

What does that mean for you?

When you are doing anything important, stack the odds in your favor. Legally tilt the balance in your favor. Do the things that will increase your chances so you wont have to depend only on your strength or skill.

3.Winning isnt always about being the best…sometimes winning is about capitalizing on your competitor’s mistakes

I saw this so many times. From track and field to gymnastics to diving and all through. Great athletes competing against each other for a possible medal..and then one makes a mistake. Has a bad landing or too much splash in the pool or gets disqualified for a false start. Little mistakes that give the opposition a huge advantage.

Many athletes got medals not because they beat ALL the other athletes,
but because some athletes were not at their own best.

In other words, they gave it away.

Here is the truth: IT DOES NOT MATTER. It does not matter. NO one really remembers the mistake of the opponent. They remember how the winners capitalize on them. Gold is Gold. No one really remembers the mistakes made by other athletes. They only remember who won. This is what life is about too.

What does this mean for you?

In any competition, dont rely on the mistakes of others as a path to your success. HOWEVER, understand that even great people make mistakes and so (a) Be careful that little mistakes dont disqualify you and (b) Be ready to capitalize on the mistakes of those who make them.

As Vince Lombardi once said “The object is to win fairly, squarely, by the rules but to win” 

4. To win, have a plan, stick with it and most importantly, execute it well.

I saw this play out in the most unexpected place. Track events

I mean….I thought the strategy was very simple: Run as fast as you possibly can till the end and stick your neck out as far as you can at the finish line!

But over and over again, runners came off the track to do their news interview and kept talking about their “strategy”.

-How they planned to pace themselves until X-point in the race OR how they planned to give it everything at the start and create enough gap that they could take easy at the end, OR How they planned to start a bit slow for a third of the race and explode for the other two thirds.

It wasn’t just people running as fast as they could. No. The good ones had a strategy and they won NOT ONLY because they combined strategy and speed instead of just relying on speed, but because they executed those strategies effectively.

What does this mean for you?

Dont rely only on your ability or skill level. Being good at something is no longer enough. Athletes, companies, governments, teams, startups, presidential campaigns, TV networks, retail stores and even terrorist organizations are NOT winning or losing based on skill level. They are doing so based on how well they can devise and execute a strategy.

Do YOU have any strategies for your life? Or are you just working hard and hoping that things fall in place? Wake up.

Don’t just work hard. A strategy should drive the work.
Tobi Atte

5. Being an Olympic gold medalist is not about being a master of many things. Its about being a master of ONE thing.

This is true for life as it is true for the Olympics.

I know you are thinking…well what about Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt and Allyson Felix or Katie Ledecky who have won several medal in several “types” of races? Are they not masters of many things?


Multi-medal Olympians are not masters of many things. They have simply mastered ONE thing and found multiple ways of applying that one thing.

That means that I dont think Usain Bolt is a master of the 200m or 100m race even though thats where he wins medals. Maybe he is just a master of timing his strides and pacing his explosiveness, and has applied that mastery to a few types of races.

Do you see that?  Just think about that.

What does that mean for you?

What is YOUR ONE thing?

What is that thing that you are better at than anyone else around you? and if you dont have that, then…

What is the one thing you are WORKING ON to become better at than everyone else around you?…and if you dont have that…then GET TO WORK!!

You can start with “The ONE Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan (More info at the bottom of this post)

6. There is a big difference between being IN something and being AT it.

And for the things that truly matter to me, I want to be IN. Here is what I mean.

Several sources say that as many as 500,000 people  (if not more) traveled to Rio to be AT the Olympics. However, only 11,741 athletes will actually be IN the Olympics…on the floors, on the bars, on the diving boards, on the tracks on the fields. Thats only about 2%.

What does that mean for you?

If you are going to do it, then REALLY do it. Seek to be in the 2%…the people who are actually DOING the thing , not the people who are talking about “it” and watching it happen.

I tried and failed is a lot better than I “saw” someone who tried and failed

7.The people you idolize are not better than you. They are just more prepared and seasoned.

We often think of greatness as this thing that is bestowed on a select few. We see what they do and we think “wow”…I could never do that. But the truth is that:

If you prepare and season yourself, and youll be just like the people you admire.

This may blow your mind a little:

Phot credit:

Phot credit:

The picture on the left was taken in 2008 before the Beijing Olympics.

On the left is the great Michael Phelps who at that time already had SIX gold medals.

On the right is 13 year old Joseph Schooling from Singapore who is grinning because he has just met his idol.

(Michael Phelps went on to win an additional 8 Gold medals in Beijing)

The Picture on the right is taken 8 years later at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Its the same people. Michael Phelps and Joseph Schooling.

Only now, Joseph has the Gold medal by beating Michael Phelps (Yes…his idol) at the 100M Butterfly race.

What does that mean for you? 

Respect people for their achievements especially in your field or competitive space…but DONT idolize them or you will never be better than them.

I wrote about that a bit more extensively HERE 

8.You will always be confident in your declarations when you are confident you’ll put in the work

Morolake Akinosun is a track runner that ran in the 4×100 relay at the Rio Olympics in 2016. I know her parents quite well. They are wonderful people and a joy to be around. Her dad is super smooth and her mum is the sweetest.

On Jul 28, 2011, she tweeted this:


And In July 2015 (exactly 5 years later) she tweeted this:


She made it to the Rio Olympics, and came back with a gold medal.

That was a SMART Goal (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time bound) and it was a FAITH IN ACTION GOAL. She didnt just sit around and wish upon a star. She got to work and clawed her way there.

What does this mean for you?

Are you setting any SMART goals?


Do your daily actions in the last 2 weeks confirm that you are putting in the work needed to achieve your dreams?


9. Recognition and Success don’t build character…they REVEAL it

You KNOW how this goes! Youve seen/read/heard of this before! Someone rises to the heights of success unimaginable. We all nod our heads in admiration and near disbelief at how successful they are. We start to ascribe a certain level of character holiness to them. (This is called the Halo Effect).

We start to think that since they have risen above us in success, they must be far above us in character. We start to ascribe that awe in their performance of their skill, to the performance of their lives.

My friends…here is the truth that is all around us:

Success eventually brings out our true nature. 

Ryan Lochte was the 2nd most decorated swimmer in America just after Michael Phelps. He was the other golden child.

Then in Rio, AFTER his great performances, he came on the news and said that he and his buddies were robbed at gunpoint by men posing as Brazilian police.  Officials later confirmed that actually, he and his buddies vandalized a gas station, urinated on the premises and were forced to pay when they were confronted by police.

He lost all his endorsements (estimated at about $1Million) within days of that.

What does that mean for you?

Ecclesiastes 10:1 says “Dead flies will cause even a bottle of perfume to stink! Yes, a small mistake can outweigh much wisdom and honor”.

As your success rises, be careful to raise your sense of character as well. Otherwise, what you consider a small mistake will cost you a great deal.

10. What makes people great is not that they have moments of greatness here and there. Its that they can repeat that greatness on demand:

Think of athletes like Usain Bolt, Simone Biles,  Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky, or teammates Kerri Walsh-Jennings and Misty May-Treanor who absolutely dominated their sports not only in Rio but over and over in other competitions and several years.

We dont call them great because they had “random” moments of greatness…NO. We respect  them and call them great because they just seem to have a secret place they go in their minds to pull out that greatness at will and every time it is demanded of them.

I love this quote from Vince Lombardi:

“Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all of the time. Winning is a habit…”

What does that mean for you?

Be great ALL the time. You will never truly get the opportunities you desire if you cannot be great at the little things in front of you now.

I have found out that people who only look for singular big moments of greatness are mostly useless or undependable at best. Why? because they don’t put their best foot forward unless they are guaranteed to shine. What they forget, is that greatness is rehearsed. It is rehearsed in darkness… It is rehearsed in the backyards and back roads where there are no raving fans or camera lights.
Tobi Atte

11. How you perform at the final is always more important than how you performed at qualifying for the finals:

Over and over again throughout the Olympics, we kept seeing athletes whose performances at the finals were even worse than what it must have been at qualifications (obviously …cos they wouldn’t have made the finals if they didnt perform well at qualifications). Im talking about utter complete breakdown.

Take a look at this:

And this??!!

What does this mean for you?

I was devastated for these people but one important lesson occurred to me.

Your ability to maintain focus till the end is just as important (if not more)
as your presence at the end.

Tobi Atte

These people made it to the finals. They beat the odds. Qualified in their country, and then went through the rigorous qualification rounds AT the Olympics only to lose the very chance to compete for gold.

You have got to keep your head in the game…keep anxiety at bay and shut off the mental and emotional noise.


12. You dont always have to win with grace…sometimes you have to win with GRIT. (CLICK TO TWEET THAT)

It was one of the most talked about moments the ENTIRE Olympics. The favorite to win this women’s 400m race was the highly decorated Allyson Felix of the U.S.A

This was Allyson Felix’s LAST Olympics and I was cheering for her all the way! With a Medal at this race, she had a chance to become the most decorated American female athlete of ALL time. A lot was on the line here.

Everything was going great until the very last second. Thats not an exaggeration… the VERY LAST second.

Bahamas’ Shaunae Miller did this:

Shaunae won by 7/100th OF 1 SECOND!!! That is W.I.L.D!

Allyson still got a medal…but it wasnt gold. She still became the most decorated American female athlete of all time…but she didnt do it with a bang….especially for being that close. She wanted it bad…but Shaunae was willing to leave it ALL on the field. Allyson had grace…Shaunae didnt care one lick about grace. It was all GRIT.

What does this mean for you?

YOU think about this one.

REALLY think about how you are competing or performing at work…in school…at church…in your business…as a husband…wife…ARE YOU PLAYING TO WIN…OR ARE YOU PLAYING JUST TO PARTICIPATE?
Tobi Atte

FIX YOUR LIFE. Cos at the end, its the people who really want your job, position, husband, wife, scholarship, time, opportunities, money more than you do, that get them.

13. Winners perform well. GREAT competitors make it look effortless

I noticed that the people who were talked about as “great” were talked about in a slightly different way than other “winners”. The one consistent comment I kept hearing was that the greats made it look so easy.

The Michael Phelps, Simone Biles and Usain Bolts of the world do just that.

Look at this:


What does this mean for you?

Be so prepared…so dominating and so ready, that when you win, it looks and feels easy.

So there you have it. Apply these principles to your life and I know that a year from now, your life wont be the same.

(What did you think? Comment below)

By the way, before I forget:

a) The law/principle I promised at the beginning of this post is: THE AGGREGATION OF MARGINAL GAINS – Look it up and understand it. I like how James Clear puts it HERE

b) A link to “The ONE Thing” is on my resources page (You’ll find other great material there too). Click HERE to take a look.

So which points hit you the hardest? Which one(s) do you think you’ll be trying to apply right away. Comment below