Before we lost patience with the inane chattering that apparently passes for commentary these days, we were watching the Olympics last weekend and that’s how I learned who Dale Begg-Smith is.
If you’ve been keeping up with the Games, you’ve likely heard his name; if you’re in an Olympics black out, then here’s what you need to know: Dale Begg-Smith is a Canadian by birth, Australian by choice who was, until last weekend, the world’s top men’s mogul skier.
He’s a controversial guy, apparently, not the least reason being that he is, in The Wall Street Journal’s words, “an Internet prodigy” who has made millions thanks to his online spam business. Among the other reasons he’s hopped up the ire of just about everyone was his decision to move to Australia to ski for their team when the Canadian team presented him with a decision: drop his business and devote more time to training, or drop skiing and devote himself to his business. Begg-Smith didn’t really understand why he couldn’t do both… and excel.
Now, I’ll admit that I know next to nothing about sports. I’m lucky to make it to the gym twice a month and I don’t have the faintest idea what it takes to become an Olympic athlete other than persistence and a whole lot of hard physical work I’m just not cut out for. But the fact that Begg-Smith has held onto his position as world class skier for more than four years running seems to suggest that he knows himself and his training needs pretty well, and this is the first lesson writers can take from Dale Begg-Smith: Don’t let other people tell you what process is right for you. If you possess talent, skill, and tenacity, as well as the ability to assess yourself objectively and discern your needs, then take the advice of those who tell you how you should go about your work as just that: advice that you’re free to apply or dismiss as you see fit.
There’s another lesson we can learn from Begg-Smith.
Begg-Smith has been vilified by many media outlets for avoiding press conferences and interviews, scorned as sarcastic and arrogant because he refuses to answer questions he considers irrelevant to skiing (When asked about his businesses at a press conference, Begg-Smith curtly replied that he wasn’t there to talk about business. Fair enough, if you ask me). NBC, in their “profile” of Begg-Smith, portrayed the skier as a “man of mystery,” mainly trumping up this image, I believe, because they simply had nothing to say about him.
The media have attempted to dog Begg-Smith into fitting the narrative they want to write about him, to shame him into speaking in order to defend himself against the image they’ve made of him because, as one journalist said, “he has a responsibility to do so.”
But I love that Begg-Smith won’t be corralled into mainstream media’s box. He’s okay with letting the media make him into whomever they need him to be. He knows exactly who he is, and it matters little, if at all, whether you or I or anyone else like him. He knows what he came to this world to do, and nothing will deter him from his goals. He doesn’t capitulate to the machine of any profession that wants to reshape him into anyone other than who he is. It’s a lesson worth imitating.