While I was watching the Olympics, I realized that every athlete there will carry the identifier of “an Olympian” for the rest of their lives. Whether they win or lose, just being invited to attend is prestigious enough to earn them a new identifying descriptor.

The same is true for Academy, Grammy, Emmy or Tony Award nominees — once a person makes it to the ballot, they are known as an Academy (etc.) Award nominee forevermore. And so it goes with National Book Award finalists and a host of other prestigious recognitions. Just getting on the list earns you distinction for life.

There are other categories of one-time events that change the biographical narrative. Presidential candidates will always will known as such. Professional athletes carry that identifier irrespective of their performance. Often people who are “first” carry that moniker with them for years afterward, even if they are not successful in the attempt.

I think we can all take solace in the realization that not everyone has to be a winner to achieve acclaim or recognition. For some things, what is important is being in the big game, not necessarily on the medal stand. Regardless of winning or losing, their effort was significant enough that it matters more than the eventual outcome.

Your work may not be on a national scale, but you are like the Olympic gymnasts who receive points and recognition based on the degree of difficulty. If you take the easy road with your work, even with perfection you will not be able to score many points, but if you produce something of difficulty, the honorable mention accolades will mean more than a lesser prize.

beth triplett

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