Back-to-School: Motivation From Usain Bolt for Jamaican Students

Usain Bolt

It was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who said, “The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight/ But they, while their companions slept, were toiling upwards in the night.” These revered rhymes are among the most popular quotes that teachers drill into their students’ heads at the start of each school term, in efforts to encourage them to work hard and excel academically. These lines stay with students far beyond school days. Much later on in life, they are often the little reminders still present in adult brains, urging now grown people to do well and be excellent.

An argument can be made for a more Jamaican brand of motivation for Jamaican students. Truth is, flowery lines from William Shakespeare and Wordsworth probably do not connect nearly as well as quotes from modern-day heroes – people students can see and hear and relate to in the flesh. We want to give our students something to remember years from now that will motivate them to carry on. So here’s a compilation of quotes from a modern-day legend, Usain Bolt, that we hope will light a fire in the hearts of students and encourage them to be brilliant in all that they do.

Anything is possible. I don’t think limits.

This is so important for every generation of Jamaican students to hear: ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE! Usain proved to us that we all have within us the capacity to do astounding, amazing, unprecedented things. You need to know this – all the things that make Usain amazing – you have them too! You breathe the same air and have the same blood pumping through your veins. Hey, you live in the same country! If greatness lives in Usain, believe – it lives in you, too. You just need to realise that, and use it.

There are better starters than me but I’m a strong finisher.

Have you been labelled a slow starter? Do you feel like you’re a little behind everybody else? Don’t worry about it. Keep working and you WILL get better. Do you know that the very first race Usain ran, he fell? Yes. But that didn’t stop him from going on to become the fastest man in the world. Usain struggled, for a time, with the start of his races. It was difficult for him, because other runners had better starts. But he did not quit. He kept working on his starts and focused on getting better and better … until he was the best. Whatever you’re struggling with now, keep working at it. You will make progress. You will get better. You can become the best!

I know what I can do, so it doesn’t bother me what other people think or their opinion on the situation.

Sometimes other people have very mean and negative things to say about us and about our work. It can be hurtful to hear them speaking about us as if we’re hopeless, or stupid. Usain dealt with people like that too. they criticised him for dancing when he won races. They criticised him when he didn’t win. But he didn’t listen o them. He didn’t let anybody’s opinion stop him from going after his goals. Don’t let them stop you either.

I have just accepted certain things and it makes it easier. I accept I will get injured. I accept I cannot win every race. I work hard to decrease the chances of those things happening but I accept they will happen. A lot of people don’t accept it. They get injured, they go crazy.

Do you know that you will have challenges in life? Terrible things will happen sometimes. Accept the fact that bad things will happen. Then relax and still work hard and do your best to get good results. Don’t go crazy over difficulties when they arise. Relax, take it in stride, and keep on moving.

You have to set yourself goals so you can push yourself harder. Desire is the key to success.

What do you want out of your life? You need to set goals for yourself and go after them. And when you have achieved those goals, set new ones, raise the bar higher, and go again. This is how you achieve success, then good success, then great success. And don’t stop pushing yourself. Don’t stop working hard, and giving it all you’ve got.

I work hard, and I do good, and I’m going to enjoy myself. I’m not going to let you restrict me.

Who are you allowing to restrict you? Who do you allow to tell you things that make you feel small – that make you feel incapable and stupid? Whose words are you allowing to put limitations on you and on your life and dreams? Don’t give them that power. Usain said he would not allow anyone to restrict him. You shouldn’t either. Whatever they say you cannot do, ignore them and use it as fuel to push you to go for gold and be even better.

To all my doubters, thank you, because you guys have also pushed me.

What do you do with your naysayers? What do you do with the people who doubt your abilities and do not believe in you? Usain has some good advice about what to do with those: Use them as fuel and let it push you to prove them wrong. Everytime you hear another person say something negative about you, use that criticism to strengthen your resolve to work harder and be better. Don’t let it stop you; let it push you toward your goal.

There is always a time when it is good to lose, at the right time for you.

Losing is part of life. You won’t always win. Usain expressed the belief that when you lose, it happens to teach you a lesson, or to help you to be better. Losing is not a crime or a sin. It is not the end of the world. It is a not-so-happy moment that you can use to learn something about yourself, about the people around you and about the world you live in. When you lose, accept that result, and let it be a lesson, and motivation to win next time.

The sky has no limits. Neither do I.

Please believe this statement: you are limitless. You can be anything you want to be. Within you lie dreams and talents and skills that you have not even tapped into yet. You need to believe this in order to work harder and go farther. If you do not believe that you can overcome the limitations before you, if you cannot see yourself going beyond them, then you will not truly work toward that goal. Please believe this statement: You are limitless. It is a truth that Usain discovered that changed his life. Let it change your today.

A lot of people, a lot of legends have come before me. But this is my time.

Look back at Jamaica’s history. There are so many persons who have done well: think of Bob Marley, Marcus Garvey, Edna Manley, Portia Simpson-Miller, Chris Gayle, Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Dr Henry Lowe … They are all legends in their own right. They all did (or do) well in their field and gave us something to be proud of as a nation. Usain looked back and said, a lot of legends have come before me. A lot, including Usain, have come before you too. But he also noticed that it was his time. He realised that he could use what he had before him to make his mark on history too. You have to do the same thing. Look back on all those great people, and let that motivate you to make your mark today. You want to be like them? Well, start now and give it all you’ve got!