Friday, August 28, 2009

The fastest man on Earth

Usain Bolt was already the fastest man on Earth last year. At the Beijing Olympics he broke world records in both the 100m (his own record) and 200m sprints. But, last month, "Lightning" Bolt outdid himself at the World Athletics' Championships, smashing his own sprint records.

You have to ask yourself why. Bolt was already the fastest man alive, so why the urge to run even faster? After all, "fastest" means you can't get faster than him; isn't that good enough? (Even if Bolt's mother was Jewish, I'm sure she would be satisfied.)

Bolt clearly appreciates one of life's most valuable lessons- success is not about beating everyone else; it's about outdoing yourself.

A day after Bolt's record-smashing run, the Jewish world began its annual soul-marathon. We leap from the starting line on 1 Elul and dash headlong towards Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Elul means thirty days of spiritual stock-take. It is an introspective time, when we assess our achievements and failures over the past twelve months and we resolve to improve in the coming year.

A word of caution: When you start your self-assessment, you may be tempted to rate your spiritual standing against others. You are sure to find people who are lagging behind you, which might convince you that you're "ok".

Perhaps G-d scheduled Bolt's success to splash out all over the media just in time to remind us what Elul is all about- breaking our own records.

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