Lance Armstrong was arguably the greatest cyclist of all time…until he admitted to doping during his record 7 Tour de France wins.
Tiger Woods was admired and respected by every golfer on the planet but then it was revealed that he was a serial cheater, sex addict, and liar and his game hasn’t been the same since.
Whitney Houston pre-recorded one of the greatest versions of the Star Spangled Banner ever…and then lip-synched it during her Super Bowl performance. Twenty years later she died in a bathtub at the Beverly Hills Hilton hotel with a significant amount of cocaine in her system.
We tend to look up to greatness and that’s understandable. There are those who are just blessed with an unbelievable amount of talent and that talent can be so rare and so unique that we almost can’t help but look on in awe.
There’s a problem with this blind admiration though; the talent and the person possessing that talent are separate and distinct pieces of the whole. While one part can be almost unnatural in its abilities, the other parts can be seriously flawed. We see this time and time again yet we’re shocked and disappointed when it keeps happening.
Doping, cocaine, cheating, lying, none of this changes my opinion when discussing a person’s specific talent. Talent is talent, after all. You have the accolades and the records to prove it. Michael Jordan could have been a serial killer but he was still one of the greatest basketball players of all time.
But there’s always more to it than just the talent. Tiger Woods was a prodigy who drew us all in, even those who typically didn’t care much about golf, but he hurt those who loved him the most.
Lance Armstrong had so much drive, so much determination and so much raw talent that he was literally unbeatable. But in the process of winning at all costs, he was willing to destroy anybody who stood in his way.
Whitney Houston, despite her bad choices with drugs…and men…was still one of the most talented and powerful singers we have ever known. In the end her vices may have disappointed us but they literally killed her. Who paid the higher price?
There are literally hundreds of examples of those we’ve put on a pedestal because we saw something amazing in them that we didn’t see in ourselves. Then we saw something in them that was more human, maybe even something we recognized in ourselves, and we just as easily pushed them off the pedestal.
Humans are imperfect beings. We only need to look closely at ourselves to prove this point beyond any reasonable doubt. We’re capable of both truly amazing and truly destructive acts against ourselves and others. In most cases there are consequences; careers ended, marriages destroyed, and in extreme cases, lives lost.
Enjoy the talent, be amazed and impressed, but don’t be so impressed that you forget that what you’re witnessing is only human and by default that means imperfect, even if that imperfection is temporarily hidden.