Carl Lewis is one of the all time sporting greats, winning a colossal nine gold medals (and one silver) in four different Olympic games. His autobiography, Inside Track, written in 1990 in collaboration with Pulitzer Prize winning author Jeffrey Marx, still stands out as an inspirational read amidst the volumes of sports autobiographies that are put out every year. We have compiled here a few uplifting passages from that book and from his 1996 diary, One More Victory Lap:
On his childhood athletic training:
I was small for my age, the runt of the family…(my parents) were toughest on me, tougher then they ever were on Mack, Cleve or Carol (his siblings)…if Carol was on the track for one hour, I would have to be there for two.
Back then I was never sure why I was being pushed. But now I have a pretty good idea. My parents knew how much it hurt me to be the worst in the family, how much I wanted to succeed, and they spotted some talent in me before anyone else did, including myself. They thought that if they pushed me, they could help me develop that talent.
Inspiration from the legendary Jesse Owens:
I do remember one thing Owens said to me: “Have fun.” He wanted us to know that having fun was the most important thing we could do.
Finally I won a local Jesse Owens meet in Philadelphia, placing first in a 1973 long jump competition for twelve year olds. Once again Owens had come to town for the meet named after him. He wandered by, saw how much smaller I was then the other kids my age. and told them “You should learn a lesson from this smaller guy. He was determined and he tried really hard.” For once, I felt good about what I was doing.
On one of his first competition trips to Europe, aged 19:
It turned out that the best thing about Florence was not the money, but my room assignment. I was paired with Steve Williams, my childhood idol. I couldn’t believe it. and I was in the same room as my idol, the guy I used to pretend to be in my backyard track meets…for two days I asked Steve about every race he had ever been in – at least it must have seemed that way to him – and he patiently answered all my questions. Hearing his stories made the trip worthwhile. I never would have be admitted this to the meet promoter, but I probably would have gone to Italy for nothing if I had known who my roommate was going to be.
Other inspirational quotes from Inside Track:
A lot of times I am criticized for the things I say in public. It would be a lot easier for me if i did not say some of the things I believe. But if something is right and people need to know about it, I say it.
I learned at a young age the way Martin Luther King Jr stressed the importance of sacrifice. If you live without sacrifice – on a small or big level, in your professional or personal life, at home or in public, then you have missed a very important part of life.
A closed mind blocks the growth of spiritual feelings. There should be no limits on spiritual feelings.
At the beginning of 1996, the year he won his ninth gold medal at the age of 35:
I will ultimately judge the outcome by answering this one question: Did I do everything possible to represent myself to the best of my abilities at this stage of my life? That does not require me to match any of my past accomplishments. T only requires me to be the best I can be right now.
During this year, Carl Lewis kept a diary, which would later be published as One More Victory Lap. here are some inspirational passages:
Sometimes a symbolic gesture is enough to make a difference. and why not? There’s certainly more than enough negative energy floating around in our world. Why not each out for something positive and embrace it when we have the opportunity?
People ask me all the time: whats it like at the Olympics to stand on that podium with a gold medal around your neck? Well I believe its the same as anyone setting a goal and achieving it. anybody can experience the intensity of that emotional high – its just that more people share in the celebration of it when you’re talking about the Olympics.
My friend Sri Chinmoy, the spiritual teacher, called from New York to wish me well in the trials. He also offered this advice ” Find your own time to be quiet. There will be so many activities, so many distractions, so many people talking around you and about you. You must not allow others to drain your energy heart.” It was vintage Sri Chinmoy. His thoughts are so often connected straight to the heart. They flow from the heart. They lead to the heart. In closing, Sri Chinmoy suggested I find one hour a day to be alone in silence. No television No telephone. No teammates or friends. Just me and my thoughts and a chance to connect to a higher power. (Carl is one of the guest readers of the audiobook version of The Jewels of Happiness by Sri Chinmoy, reading the chapter on Self-Transcendence)
A friend has been telling me…you need to pull out some old pictures from when you were winning everyting…so i finally did that. I went into a storage closet and found an assortment of old pictures. Also some awards. Its almost symbolic, what icve done over the years with pictured and awards, because ive packed most of them away, oout of site, out of mind. Ive never wanted to spend too much time dwelling on the past.
But something about seeing those old pictures again put me totally at ease. It all looked so natural, like I was doing what I was born to do, and enjoying it. There was never any doubt on my face. Just power and confidence and joy. ike doing what i was born to do.
And those pictures made me want to feel that again.