A lesson from the Olympics
AUGUST 20, 2012
by Brian Wolf

Now that the Olympics are over, I can sit back and reflect with a certain amount of satisfaction. First off – because of the time difference most of the events were shown on tape delay so I decided to record all those tape delays. What a joy to watch TV without the commercials!

Secondly - I got a full dose of my Olympic patriotism. Now that the Summer Olympics and Winter Olympics are only separated by two years it makes for a nice schedule. No need to go a full four years without feeling just a little patriotic.

Some of my friends call me an Olympic junkie; guilty as charged. Besides, how could I dispute that claim after watching hours of everything from archery to rhythmic gymnastics. Who knew that rolling on a matt with a ball could be a sport?

A long time ago, and in what seems now like another lifetime, I was an Olympic Decathlon hopeful myself. Turned out I was lacking only two ingredients to make the Olympic team for the decathlon – speed and skill. Not to be undone when that didn’t work out for me, I just switched over to the sport of bobsledding. Turns out I had just enough speed and skill for that sport, but did I have the right amount of craziness?

Just my luck . . . I did!

In 1987, I was the 2-Man National Bobsled Champion and held two American records in the 4-Man Bobsled. Our Olympic trials were in Winterburg, Germany, and we raced for a full month. I knew I wasn’t in “Kansas” anymore when I saw news crews filming from helicopters. That was the start of my change in perspective for what the Olympics are all about.

After one of my races, I was interviewed by a TV station from someplace in Russia. Evidently someone in Russia wanted to know what a guy from Minneapolis thought about the Olympics. At the time, I viewed it as ironic as if WCCO had traveled to Siberia to cover and interview someone that played broomball. So today, if someone from Russia wants to know what I think, they can just log onto my website and read this column.

Everyone on the planet knows that American swimmer Michael Phelps is the greatest swimmer of all time and has won more Olympic medals than anyone in history. In his “victory” interview, he said that he will let time and others decide his greatness and his legacy. From a humble factor standpoint, that’s the perfect answer.

On the other hand, you have Usain Bolt, the Jamaican sprinter who won gold medals in the 100- and 200- meter sprints. After his race, he declared himself the “greatest” and “a living legend.” His own twitter account proclaimed him “the greatest athlete of all time.”

Did you ever notice that when it comes to investments, everyone seems to be talking like they were Usain Bolt? We are the best – We are the greatest! I’ve personally never heard an investment representative say they have just average returns, or “buy us, even if we’re not the best.”

Self evaluations (like Mr. Bolt’s) are often the least objective and most likely to be inaccurate. The next time you are told that a financial product is the best or the greatest, ask yourself is this a Michael Phelps evaluation, or a Usain Bolt evaluation.

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