Have you ever had a dream, a desire or a goal that everyone tells you is unrealistic? Don’t let others put a limit on your passion, because if you want something badly enough, anything can happen. There may be no better example of this can-do spirit than Ruben Gonzalez.
He wanted to be an Olympian, but all through school, he was that kid chosen last for every team. Even he admits that he possessed “limited athletic ability.” But he wouldn’t let his dream go.
Gonzalez began to research Olympic events in search of one that didn’t require extraordinary strength or an uncommon skill set.
“When I was a kid, my dad got me into reading biographies,” he says. “He told me that if you study the life of great people, you’ll figure out what works and what doesn’t work in life because success leaves clues. So, I started following the clues.”
Gonzalez tried to find something that didn’t require long workouts in the gym or on the track. It would need to be an event in which he could excel through mental tenacity, desire and focus. He found it in the sport of luge.
Born in Argentina, Gonzalez was raised in the United States, spending most of his childhood in Houston, hundreds of miles away from snow. At the age of 21, he set off on a quest to learn everything he could about the sport. Ultimately, it was persistence that gave him his opportunity. He tried to make the U.S. team but was cut. So, he tried out for the Argentina team and made it.
Not only did he achieve his dream, he has now qualified for the Olympics four times in four different decades.
“What I realized my story is really all about is the study of success and how to achieve it,” Gonzalez says. “I saw that the story behind every great person has the same three parts: a dream, the struggle and victory.”
Now 58, Gonzalez has suited up again and is training for what may his biggest challenge yet: making the team for the Winter Olympics in Beijing in 2022. If he succeeds, he’ll become the oldest Olympian in history.
“My coaches say that I’m like a really old car that doesn’t have that many miles on it,” he says. “I’ve taken a lot of breaks and that’s actually worked for me. It wasn’t planned that way, it’s just the way it happened.”
He last competed in Vancouver in 2010. Then boredom set in and he was eager to get back on the sled:
“My coaches said, ‘You’re sliding better than ever. You’ve been sitting at that desk so long building your business, you need to do a little yoga so we can stretch you out. But mentally, you’re stronger than ever. You’ve got a shot.’ And that’s all I can ask for—a shot.”
That business is a thriving career as a best-selling author and motivational speaker. Gonzalez dedicates his life to encouraging others to dream big—to not put a limit on their potential. He wants to give them the courage to succeed.
His first tip is to surround yourself with active, engaged and interesting people. Gonzalez says it’s important to hang around with people you respect and who are doing things. Avoid those who whine, complain and “brag” about their various medical issues.
Before long, he contends, you’ll start picking up the achievers’ positive habits and mindset.
“All you have to do is believe that your goal is possible,” he says. “I try to take people’s excuses away. Everybody allows fear of failure and fear of the unknown hold them back. Through my crazy Olympic story, I try to give them hope. I want to sprinkle a little pixie dust, so they’ll face their fears and charge forward.”
If Gonzalez finds himself back on an Olympic team in 2022, he’ll break a record that’s stood since 1924. But he hopes that new record will last only four years.
“My goal is to inspire other guys and other gals to get back into that arena and to do it,” he says. “Stop worrying about how old you are! Just because you might have a little ache and pain here and there, that’s OK. Mentally, you’re stronger and you have all this knowledge and wisdom. So, why not?”
Why not, indeed.