You Decide: Simone Biles & The Promise

 

Imagine you’re the G.O.A.T. of your sport.  

You’ve already won gold medals, and expected to win a few more.

Pressure beyond reason mounts as you are supposed to be perfect in your performance.

And then everything goes wrong.

And it’s at The Olympics in front of a Billion viewers! 

As opposed to pushing forward, possibly risking physical injury, taking the team down with you, instead you decide to pull yourself from competition.

This is where The Promise as a topic of importance becomes essential for your own foundational belief system.

This story will be talked about for years to come, but it is an important one to discuss right now.

Simone Biles, one of the greatest athletes of all-time, found herself in last place after she missed a vault routine that was fairly second-nature to her, but this time didn’t come together.

CNN Story HERE

Everyone can relate to this – when our performance is on the line, we are expected to deliver, especially when that’s what we’re known for having done our entire careers…

It’s our SIGNATURE MOVE to perform under pressure and nail it every time!

And then she came up short when the bright lights were on – even after having succeeding in the past.

Her pride could have kept her fighting to stay in it, and claw her way back into contention.

But she made a PROMISE to herself, deep down inside, that if she wasn’t OK in her heart and mind she would do what had to be done:

Pull Herself from Competition.

~

“The Promise To The One” is the promise to yourself. 

If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend checking it out, as it may help you form your own best opinion about what we’ve just witnessed, and more importantly ask yourself: What would I do? 

 

I present here a few sides of the discussion – 

ARGUMENT IN FAVOR OF SIMONE BILES’ DECISION: 

Have you ever said, “Enough is enough, I’m done!”

If so, then you can relate to Simone Biles doing what is best for her.

She is the greatest gymnast of all-time, pressured to heights unfelt by a majority of athletes who have ever lived, and been expected to win every time.

She knows her body, heart, mind, and what going too far means, especially when it comes to the dynamics of her profession and demands it requires of mental stability while flying through the air.

She decided to take her life and future into her own hands and yes…step away.

This takes courage, strength, and a strong sense of self.

It is with sights set on the future, to not play through the pain, to not risk one more down that could put you down for life.

It is the equivalent of watching the 2019 Golden State Warriors’ All-Stars go down one after the other with career threatening injuries, Kevin Durrant and then Klay Thompson, in an effort to push through one more play, even knowing they were injured.

Would they have stepped on the court if they knew what was coming?  Would they sacrifice such for the team and their future?

Remember “Rocky IV” when the towel isn’t thrown and Apollo Creed dies?

Watch that movie again and convince yourself it’s worth the glory of sport to make the ultimate sacrifice, either in the moment or in the future.

Or just go look at what’s happened to 8x Mr. Olympia Body Building Champion Ronnie Coleman.  Dang.

What is The Promise to Yourself?

I once turned away the opportunity of a lifetime to have my career dream fulfilled at 25 years old.  When I walked from it, everyone told me I was wrong for having done so.  Now it has become somewhat glorified, even a story for which I am known, yet at the time, those closest to me, with little exception, and especially those who were famous and rooting for me, thought I had lost my mind and given up!

Is there a right answer?  

Only to the person who lives with the decision.

Only The Promise To Self.

~

ARGUMENT AGAINST HER DECISION:

It has been written by many that Simone Biles has just proven we are raising a generation of quitters. 

She has now set the standard for even the greatest to wither under the pressure of competition.  Accusing her of bailing just because something was difficult.

Is this the role model we want our children to have?

They write, “Imagine Tom Brady saying he doesn’t want to play in the Superbowl because he feels too much pressure…”  

Others argue, “Keri Strugg snapped her leg upon landing her vault in order to Keep The Promise to her team, and will forever live in glory.  Simone has just given up on not only her team, but her whole country!”

One wrote, “How selfish can one person be?  There are other gymnasts sitting at home, wishing they could have been in that roster spot, and now are seeing the athlete they lost out to quitting!” 

The comments are strong, and are valid from the perspective of someone looking from the outside, as a fan, and under the premise of The Promise To Do Whatever It Takes. 

Had Michael Jordan decided to skip out on a certain “Flu Game”, my Utah Jazz might have a ring.

Had Serena Williams wilted under the pressure of being the 2nd best in a tennis family where older sister Venus reigned for years, we would have never seen the dominance and magnitude of the greatest tennis champion of all-time.

Had Jesse Owens shrunk in the face of the Nazi regime in Berlin for fear of race discrimination and defeat in the most important Olympic moment ever, perhaps the future of the world changes…

There is much to be said for an athlete, or any performer, to push through and say, “The Show Must Go On!”  

You learn this is true when you’re a Dad who is a professional speaker, family of 6 with a mortgage, March 2020 pandemic hits and your career drops off the face of the earth.  Suddenly you’re scrambling to figure out Virtual presentations from your house as your bank account is drained and every appliance in the house decides to crap out, including the computer you needed to run everything, and a washing machine that floods the home.

The Show Must Go On!

There is no bailing that situation.

And if you do, you’re a delinquent Dad and a terrible Motivational Speaker.

Just because there’s pressure, demand, and no chance for tomorrow, there is the present moment: today – so you’d better face the music and press on!

Ever seen the true story that is “Cinderella Man”?  Cry with me as we watch together a man being pummeled in the name of providing for his family during the Depression.

Are you the one who Breaks The Promise when the going gets tough?

Are you a quitter?

Are you in it to win it?

These are tough questions to answer on behalf of someone else, but for the person watching from the sidelines the answer is clear: If you’re going to quit, don’t lead us on to think you’re in it to win it and then bail.

That is a Broken Promise to Self, Team, and Audience.

~

From the perspective of The Promise To The TEAM:

Simone Biles made a PROMISE to her TEAM that this would be their moment, their Gold, their Olympics.

And then she had a mental and medical injury.

In that moment, Simone Biles made a PROMISE to her TEAM that she had to do WHAT WAS BEST FOR THE TEAM, even if it was a HUGE HIT to her PRIDE and capability: She withdrew from the Team competition in order to not drag them down.

She had confidence enough in this team that they would go on to succeed without her.

The TEAM went on to win Silver, and most likely wouldn’t have, had Biles been too prideful to step down, and let them carry on without her.

While she was on the sidelines she did not hide – she screamed, cheered, and willed them on from the bench.

To me, this is THE STORY of The Promise to The Team in these Olympics.  

Some may argue she should have stuck it out, “never abandon the team!”  

I agree.  There are few times, if ever, that we should abandon our team.

However, if you’ve ever been rock climbing and one of your climbing partners fall, there is an unwritten, unspoken, and sacred rule among climbers:

 

 

If the climber who fell is going to pull everyone else down to their demise with them, and the fallen climber knows this is the case, that person is to reach into their pocket and cut their own rope, falling to their death, sacrificing themselves for the salvation of the others. 

Simone Biles ‘cut the rope’ at the Olympics when she realized she was the weak link on the TEAM in that moment.

This is extremely rare for any Leader to do – especially with the world watching and counting on you – yet she showed the very essence of the Legendary Leader who keeps The Promise.  

This may go down as her greatest achievement, and greatest sacrifice, even with all of her success in winning, in that she opens a greater door to the conversation around mental health leading to a physical injury.

Had this been understood or acknowledged earlier in the last century, yes, we would have missed out on some great athletic moments and achievements, but we also could have saved many lives in the grand scheme of mental health awareness.

Simone Biles did what had to be done to help her TEAM after she had failed to perform in such a moment.

Not a “medical issue” of the body in terms of a physical injury, although it could have easily led to that; but rather a “medical issue” of the mind, health, and well-being. 

This is important and essential to consider this conversation right now, as we are ALL in a state of compromised well-being after what’s just happened since 2020.

Whether you agree or not with her decision – and it’s really not for any of us to agree with it or not – we must self-assess where we stand when it comes to What Is Our Promise to Self, Team, and Audience.

Simone just summed up “The Promise To The One”, which is the promise to self, which affects The Promise To The Team and everyone else!

She may go down as vilified, hated, and despised by many; to others she may be raised up, applauded, and credited for having saved many future mental health related moments in countless lives.

Whatever her legacy becomes, I applaud her bravery and acknowledgement that all was not ok, and that she had the courage enough to step down, even when I’ve been the kind of guy who says, “Hey, no matter what: The Show Must Go On!”  And I can honestly say, that’s not always the best choice.

Just go watch “The Wrestler” with Mickey Rourke and cry your eyes out watching someone who thinks he’s keeping The Promise…

 

READ THE STORY HERE

 

Your Promise Prompt for The Week: 

What is Your Promise To The TEAM? 

If you are the G.O.A.T. of your TEAM, and find yourself in a weak link moment, would you be willing to step aside, allow your pride to be damaged, but know what is best for the overall result, and cheer them on from the bench?

What kind of Legendary Leader are you?

What is your Promise To The Team?

What is Your Promise To Yourself?  

~

And YES, I’m sincerely interested in your argument.

Be brave, share it here, don’t email me! 

What’s your opinion of Simone Biles’ decision? 

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

~ Jason Hewlett

The Promise Institute Co-Founder

Promise Culture Keynote Speaker

* Speaker Hall of Fame

Author of “The Promise To The One”

jasonhewlett.com

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18 thoughts on “You Decide: Simone Biles & The Promise”

  1. Simone Biles is more of a champion today than ever.

    It’s hard to do the right thing for yourself, especially when the weight and eyes of the world are on you.

    It would have been far easier to continue and then suffer for years to come, or risk permanent mental or physical injury by pushing through.

    It’s about doing what we know in our heart is right instead of doing what everyone else thinks we should. Self care matters. Self care is not selfish.

    Simone is even more of a champion today in my book for taking care of herself, hustle porn culture or not.

    1. She believed all the hype about herself and that is the beginning of failure. When asked in an interview if she could be beaten, she sort of said “no”. She allowed others to define her. Trying to live up to others expectations is a death sentence.

      In my opinion, she wasn’t competing for the right reasons – “black and brown people around the world” are raised up when others like them succeed for themselves. (A rising tide lifts all boats.) True success is a personal achievement whether you are a World Class Gymnast or the town Librarian. Do you do your best every day?

      I am hopeful she will be able to compete in 2024. She is the greatest but she DOES NOT have to prove that to anyone.

      1. I believe she doesn’t have to prove that she is the greatest to anyone, either. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Lynn.

  2. As a former member of Team USA here’s what I know to be true: Simone had done as well as she has in spite of the USOC and her NGB. Contrary to popular belief they don’t support athletes and are in business for themselves. Athletes are pawns in their business. She is in a lawsuit against them. The sports psychology program offered to athletes is flimsy at best and if it worked we wouldn’t have seen this meltdown from her.
    The strongest thing she could have done was take herself out. She’s one of the few athletes with the leverage to do it. She’s gone against all the powers that be. The people that in the past controlled her future. It’s impossible to get into words her strength. She did what was best for her and Team USA.
    The problem I see is that this gives people the green light to quit. Many will before they develop the ability to push thru adversity and learn what they’re really capable of.

  3. Mental health crises in our society are not perceived the same as physical illness, but should be. If she had come down with a physical illness and withdrew because of it, her decision would not be questioned the way it is. Mental health crises are debilitating, too, and should not be perceived as shameful or imagined. Simone Biles is setting an example for everyone by taking care of herself and not risking her life or physical well-being when she knows she is not able to do her dangerous signature moves safely.

  4. I see both sides of the story. Simone made her decision. It was her’s to make. We often are quick to criticize, but I’m not in her shoes. We must evaluate ourselves. No one else knows our body better than we do! I respect her decision. Be kind.

  5. I believe Simone made a selfless decision, putting the team ahead of herself. As many others have said in their comments this was the bravest possible decision. And she is making it okay for a generation that follows her to keep the promise to self and at the same time trust the team to rise up when you can’t. Bravo!

  6. Andrew Stallings

    When I first heard this news, I was upset, annoyed, worried, and confused. A lot of that may lie in the fact of not knowing all the information and we may never know what Simone is thinking or going through!

    I sincerely hope she gets any needed help and can push through.

    It’s ok to feel multiple ways about something like this. With not knowing all of what Simone is going through I think it’s ok to feel multiple ways about the situation. I think it’s foolish to just automatically go extreme to either side. I wish her the very best and she doesn’t have anything else to prove.

    There can be much growth in pushing through things like that and being able to defeat one’s self AND still compete but maybe she had already done that and pushed herself as far as she could go.

    That’s why it’s foolish to assume and go to one side or the other before knowing all the information! Sorry for the long comment.

    Thanks for your words on the topic! It pretty much summed up how I’ve basically felt about it. God Bless!!

  7. Biles to Go!
    Says Simone, or Simon Says?

    By Ken Shelton

    Okay, my friends, it’s time for me to weigh in on the Simone Biles’ withdrawal from the Olympics, as I see something more ominous and polymorphous in this than a simple cop-out or opt-out of yet another sporting event.
    My big question is who is talking and deciding: Is it Simone Says or Simon Says?

    Note: Simon Says is a children’s game for three or more players. One player takes the role of “Simon” and issues instructions (usually physical actions such as “jump in the air” or “stick out your tongue”) to the other players, which should be followed only when prefaced with the phrase “Simon says”. Players are eliminated by either following instructions that are not preceded by the phrase, or by failing to follow an instruction which does include the phrase. It is the ability to distinguish between genuine and fake commands, rather than physical ability, that matters in the game; in most cases, the action just needs to be attempted. The object for the player acting as Simon is to get all the other players out as quickly as possible; the winner is usually the last player who has successfully followed all of the given commands. Occasionally, however, two or more of the last players may all be eliminated at the same time, thus resulting in Simon winning the game.

    Simone Says is an Olympic game for three or more players. One player takes the role of “Simone” and issues instructions like “vault in the air” or “stick out your tongue” to the other players, which should be followed only when prefaced with “Simone says”. Players, including Simone, are eliminated by either following instructions or by failing to follow instructions. It is the ability to distinguish between genuine and fake commands, rather than physical ability, that matters in the game; in Simone’s case, the action just needs to be attempted to win the game.
    Simone Says: No Go
    Sprightly Simone Biles, four-time Olympic gold medalist, announced she will not compete in individual all-around competition after withdrawing from the team finals because of “mental health issues”. She will be evaluated daily to see if she will participate in the event finals. Biles, 24, had qualified for all four event finals—vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor competition—and was expected to win gold in at least three of them. Her withdrawal marks the end of an era in the sport. The superstar hasn’t lost an all-around competition since 2013!
    One press release stated: “We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being. Her courage shows why she is a role model for so many.”
    When Simone came to the Tokyo Olympics, she said she was feeling good, but the weight of expectations on her as Team U.S.A.’s biggest star became tougher by the day; in the hours before the team final she said she was shaking and couldn’t nap. In the end, the pressure was too heavy for her to bear. During her vault, the first event of the team final, Biles got lost in the air and didn’t know where her body was in relation to the ground. She ended up performing a much simpler vault, and on the landing, she bounded forward.
    Biles told her coach and team doctor that she was not in the right “head space” to continue because she was afraid of injuring herself, and didn’t want to jeopardize the team’s chances at winning a medal. “I’m still struggling with some things,” Biles said. “It just sucks when you are fighting with your own head.”
    The USAG statement read: “Today, after further consultation with medical staff, Simone Biles has decided to withdraw from the event finals for vault and the uneven bars. She will continue to be evaluated daily to determine whether to compete in the finals for floor exercise and balance beam. We remain in awe of Simone, who continues to handle this situation with courage and grace.”
    She later told the media she no longer trusted herself and opted out of the all-around final to focus on her mental health. In Instagram posts, Biles explained,, “My mind and body are simply not in sync—I’m dealing with the “twisties” (a term used by gymnasts when they feel like they get lost in the air, which can cause serious injuries). “I don’t think people realize how dangerous this is,” she wrote.
    After receiving an outpouring of support, Simone said: “This has made me realize I’m more than my accomplishments in gymnastics, which I never truly believed before.”

    Bile Reflux or Biles Redux?
    Now Simple Shelton Says: Is this a case of Bile Reflux (or Biles Redux)?

    Note: Bile reflux occurs when bile—a digestive liquid produced in the liver—backs up (refluxes) into the stomach or esophagus). It may accompany the reflux of stomach acid (gastric acid) into the esophagus, and gastric reflux may lead to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which causes irritation and inflammation of sensitive tissues. Unlike gastric acid reflux, bile reflux can’t be completely controlled by changes in diet or lifestyle. Treatment may involve meditation, medication or, in severe cases, surgery.

    My concern is that Biles Reflux (Twisties) may lead to a more serious condition, Biles Redux, a repeat of the superstar athlete syndrome, ala O.J. Simpson (takes off to shoot movies, knife people); Michael Jordan (takes off to play baseball); and Tiger Woods (takes off to play sex games). What this portends is Simone Stopping by (Tiger) Woods on a Snowy Evening:

    Robert Frost Writes Simone Biles Says
    Whose woods these are I think I know. Whose Woods is this, I think I know
    His house is in the village though; His house is not in Olympic Village though
    He will not see me stopping here He will not see me stopping here
    To watch his woods fill up with snow. To watch Woods pile up his show.

    My little horse must think it queer My pummel horse must think me queer
    To stop without a farmhouse near To stop here with a gold medal near
    Between the woods and frozen lake But I’m between Woods and river Jordan
    The darkest evening of the year. In my darkest evening I must shed a tear.

    He gives his harness bells a shake I give my harness bells a shake
    To ask if there is some mistake. And ask myself if there is some mistake
    The only other sound’s the sweep The only other sound’s the medal sweep
    Of easy wind and downy flake. Of an easy win or fall down, a fake.

    The woods are lovely, dark and deep, Tiger Woods is lovely, dark and deep
    But I have promises to keep, But I have the twisties to keep.
    And miles to go before I sleep, And Biles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep. And Biles to go before I sleep.

    Shelton Interprets Frost’s and Biles’ Poems
    Biles’ poem reflects the thoughts of a lonely gymnast, pausing at night by the home of Tiger Woods. Although beguiled by his charm, she reminds herself that, despite the loveliness of the view, she must reject him: “I have promises to keep, And Biles to go before I sleep.”
    Frost wrote his poem in June 1922 at his house in Shaftsbury, Vermont. He had been up all night writing the long poem New Hampshire and finally finished at daybreak. He went out to view the sunrise and got the idea for Stopping by Woods. He wrote the new poem “as if I’d had a hallucination” in just “a few minutes without strain.”
    In the last two lines, Frost implies that he is a long way from home and has miles to go before his final rest, death, which he desires; but before getting that rest he has promises to keep, duties to fulfill. The symbolism suggests that we too have much to do before we die, unfulfilled dreams and duties to pursue while we are yet alive. Indeed, Frost still had a long life ahead of him (42 years) with many things to do before “falling asleep” in 1963.

    Simone Summary
    Simone says Biles-to-Go was the result of frosty mental twisties, and Bile reflux, but Simple Simon Shelton says this athletic avoidance behavior may lead to Biles Redux, give the shaft to the team or bury promises ala Tiger Woods, OJ Simpson and Michael Jordan.
    Exceptional talent, like exceptional beauty, has its privileges, I suppose. But it also has its duties, and Biles has Miles to Go (perhaps 42 years or more) before she sleeps.
    I do hope she can again trust herself, get her mind and body in sync, get in the right head space, take a good long nap and no longer get lost in the air because life outside of gymnastics still has its vaults, uneven bars, balance beams and floor competitions . . . and she will need all the courage and grace she can muster to handle these situations.

    1. Wow Ken, your word-smithing here is beyond what I was expecting. As with any creative writer, this comment/essay may cause both new thoughts/engage some, and perhaps enrage others, as my words have to a certain group as well. I appreciate the time and effort you’ve taken to share, and like you, wish the best for Simone as she navigates this new path on her journey.

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