A healthy lesson I’d like to share from my youth is never strive for perfection.
I recall my inspiration for perfection in vivid detail. It was the Summer of 1976 in Brooklyn, NY.
I sat on the bright red carpet of my parent’s living room staring transfixed at the TV screen at
someone I then thought was perfect. Nadia Elena Comaneci, one of the best-known Romanian
gymnasts in the world, was awarded a perfect score of 10 in an Olympic Gymnast event. She began
gymnastics in kindergarten. Kindergarten. Talk about getting a flexible leg up on the competition.
She was the first gymnast to perform a double back salto and a double-twist dismount, not to mention
the first ever to successfully perform an aerial cartwheel-back handspring flight series and aerial
walkover. If you don’t know what that means, doesn’t matter. She did it perfectly is all you ever
need to know.
On July 18, 1976 at the Summer Olympics in Montreal, Nadia’s routine on the uneven bars was
scored at 10.0. It was the first time in modern Olympic gymnastics history that the score had
ever been awarded. The scoreboards were not even equipped to display scores of 10.0, so her
perfect marks were flashed at 1.00 instead. The applause from the crowd was triumphant.
She would go on to win six additional 10s from the floor exercise, bars titles and all-around
In case anyone missed it — ABC’s television program, World Wide of Sports replayed
constant s-l-o-w motion montages of Nadia. In March 1976, she competed in the American
Cup at Madison Square Garden in New York City. She received unprecedented perfect
scores of 10, which signified a perfect routine without any deductions, on a vault in both
the preliminary and final rounds of competition and won the all-around. She also received
10s in other meets in 1976, where she posted perfect marks on the uneven bars and vault.
She was named the United Press International’s “Female Athlete of the Year” for 1975.
She was the 1976 BBC Sports Personality of the Year and the Associated Press’s 1976
“Female Athlete of the Year”. The New York Times headline the next day read:
Gymnast Posts Perfect Marks.
But the headline that would leave the most indelible mark in the mind of this twelve-year-old
was on the August 2, 1976 cover of TIME Magazine. Two words:
There was a lot going on in the world in 1976. I was a newshound, so I followed it all.
Lots of stuff I couldn’t control. For starters, in NYC, the “Son of Sam” pulled a gun from
a paper bag, killing one person and seriously wounding another one. It would be the
first of a series of attacks that would terrorize the city for the next year. Every night,
my Dad brought home the New York Post with progressively worse covers that
terrified us. That year, the NJ Supreme Court also removed coma patient,
Karen Ann Quinlin from her ventilator. She died. The first known outbreak of the
Ebola virus happened in Yambuku, Zaire. I was busy researching that too.
It wasn’t all bad news. It was the Bicentennial, so we were all obsessed with
red, white and blue and all things patriotic. That was fun. Steve Jobs and
Steve Wozniak formed Apple computer. Exciting. The song,
Hotel California was released by the Eagles. We were also introduced to
Casey Kasem’s Countdown. Music was a welcome relief to all the scary stuff,
so I was dancing to things like Kung Fu Fighting and Shake, Shake, Shake.
I listened to the music while exercising like a maniac indoors. I couldn’t go
out anyway because the “Son of Sam” might get me. He was after brunettes.
This worked for my desire to practice every day, so I could be perfect –just
like Nadia. I couldn’t control scary news events, but I could control me.
It’s no surprise I made cheerleading after they saw my perfect chinese split.
Afterall, when I wasn’t at school, I was religiously doing my gymnastic routines.
I wanted to be perfect. It would take decades for me to undo the damage
those two words left on my brain. Years to learn perfect is the evil of good.
I had to unlearn in order to learn to strive to be healthy, as there is no way to
be perfect AND healthy. Every young gymnast, even Nadia, would later reveal
that obtaining and maintaining that physique led to unhealthy eating habits,
which were detrimental to her health. I didn’t know that then, so I was dieting
to look like her. Parents think kids who are skinny are naturally skinny, so
it doesn’t often raise a red flag. It should. Today, I see young girls who
are way too young to be body conscious, but they’re admiring celebs they
see in magazines that we later learn are airbrushed. No young girl
or boy should ever be dieting unless it’s under a physician’s care.
Even in business, perfectionism isn’t good. One of my mentors taught me to
“let it go” and not wait for things to be perfect to do. Again, perfect is the evil of
good because if you wait for things to be perfect, you’ll miss opportunities.
And things will never be perfect. If you think in your mind that one thing
or one person is holding you back, well it will be replaced with something or
someone else. Don’t wait for circumstances to be perfect or for anything
to be perfect. Life is unpredictable.
If it’s good –it’s good to go.
Back to Nadia. Today, she is a strong advocate on healthy eating.
Young boys and girls are still exposed to unhealthy images of what their
bodies should look like and it’s detrimental to their health to try to attain that
look. There is no diet in the world that will do for you what good nutrition and daily
healthy habits will do.
Daily healthy habits include eating nutritious meals and snacks, drinking lots of water,
getting at least 8 hours of sleep each night, taking vitamins, getting fresh air and sunlight,
and exercising an hour each day (some experts say 45 min. is good enough, even if
it’s walking). Anything extreme is bad. You are more likely to stick with habits for the
longterm if they do not exhaust you. Your goal should always be living a healthy lifestyle,
rather than reaching a certain weight. I do not own a scale. When I was trying to be
Nadia, I must have weighed myself every hour. Daily healthy habits enable you
to be fit in mind, body and spirit. I also learned to avoid all magazines, books or
TV programs that encourage dieting or have any unhealthy images in them.
And if I should ever grace the cover of a magazine, I want the headline to be these two words:
p.s. I couldn’t get text or pics to align perfectly tonight, but I’m happily letting that go. 😉
It’s always important to keep things in perspective.
True wealth is the ability to fully experience life.
– Henry David Thoreau
- You are alive.
- You are able to see the sunrise and the sunset.
- You are able to hear birds sing and waves crash.
- You can walk outside and feel the breeze through your hair and the sun’s warmth on your skin.
- You have tasted the sweetness of chocolate cake.
- You didn’t go to sleep hungry last night.
- You awoke this morning with a roof over your head.
- You had a choice of what clothes to wear.
- You haven’t feared for your life today.
- You have overcome some considerable obstacles, and you have learned and survived.
- You often worry about what you’re going to do with your life – your career, your family, the next step, etc. – which means you have ambition, passion, drive, and the freedom to make your own decisions.
- You live in a country that protects your basic human rights and civil liberties.
- You are reasonably strong and healthy – if you got sick today, you could recover.
- You have a friend or relative who misses you and looks forward to your next visit.
- You have someone with whom to reminisce about ‘the good old days.’
- You have access to clean drinking water.
- You have access to medical care.
- You have access to the Internet.
- You can read.
The truth is, you’re doing better than a lot of people in this world. So remember to be grateful for all the things you do have. (Read The Happiness Project.)
(Thank you to April Silva Johnson for sharing post)