Five Invaluable Lessons Lance Armstrong Has Taught the World

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard that Lance Armstrong spent at least a decade using drugs to boost his performance. If you haven’t, here’s what happened: the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) had stricken from the record 14 years of Lance Armstrong’s successful career – including his seven Tour de France titles – and officially banned him from cycling because they believed that the heroic cyclist slash cancer survivor used drugs to cheat his way to the top. At first, Armstrong denied using any drugs, but then he realized how much his young children defended him at school and he didn’t want to mislead them any longer. He then went on Oprah and confessed to doping.

Armstrong’s confession shocked the entire world, disgraced his reputation, and brought on a slew of lawsuits from former sponsors. The former cyclist’s image is now in shambles and it’ll be very hard for him to move on in a world where people no longer have any respect for him. However, there’s one thing Lance Armstrong has done that no one can ever deny: he helped change the world. Even though he did drugs to cheat his way to the top, he still inspired millions of people, empowered cancer patients to live strong, educated us about living well, and contributed so much to the global fight against cancer. No matter how hard we try, we can’t deny the fact that this man, with or without his seven Tour de France titles, has taught us many invaluable lessons about life. Here are five of those lessons:

Lesson #1: Always ignore the odds.

Did you know that when he was diagnosed with cancer, 25-year-old Lance Armstrong was given a less than 20% chance of survival? At one point, his doctor even told him that there was only a 3% chance he’d live past his 26th birthday. Instead of dwelling on the fact that he was very likely to die soon, Armstrong chose to fight, fight, and fight. He underwent brain surgery, testicular surgery, and extensive chemotherapy, and beat the odds. “If children have the ability to ignore all odds and percentages, then maybe we can all learn from them,” Armstrong once said. “When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope? We have two options, medically and emotionally: give up, or fight like hell.”

Lesson #2: Hope is the only antidote to fear.

Lance Armstrong has taught us that hope is more powerful than we think. It’s the only thing that lets us face fear. “What is stronger, fear or hope?” Armstrong once asked this rhetorical question. The answer? It’s up to you. If you worried about falling off a bike, you’d never get on. Armstrong wrote in his book, It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life, “[After finding out that I had cancer,] I wanted to live, but whether I would or not was a mystery. In the midst of confronting that fact, even at that moment, I was beginning to sense that to stare into the heart of such a fearful mystery wasn’t a bad thing.”

Lesson #3: Pain is temporary, but quitting is forever.

This lesson pretty much applies to everything in life. If you quit, you’re done. If Armstrong had let his extremely poor prognosis affect his thinking, he probably would’ve given up and he wouldn’t have been here today. In It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life, Armstrong wrote, “Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever. That surrender, even the smallest act of giving up, stays with me. So when I feel like quitting, I ask myself, ‘Which would I rather live with?’”

Lesson #4: It’s okay to suffer or lose.

In fact, you can learn a lot from suffering or losing. Armstrong put it best in his book, Every Second Counts, “Suffering […] was essential to a good life. […] Each time I encountered suffering, I believed that I grew, and further defined my capacities – not just my physical ones, but my interior ones as well, for contentment, friendship, or any other human experience.” That philosophy can apply to losing, as well. “If you’re willing to examine failure, and to look not just at your outward physical performance, but your internal workings, too, losing can be valuable,” Armstrong also wrote in the book. “How you behave in those moments can perhaps be more self-defining than winning could ever be. Sometimes losing shows you for who you really are.”

Okay, okay, maybe Armstrong didn’t quite believe in this lesson, since he resorted to drugs to win, but he still taught people that it was okay to suffer or lose. That has to count for something, right?

Lesson #5: Turn an obstacle into an opportunity.

For every negative situation you encounter, always turn it into a positive one. Armstrong did just that when he battled cancer. He used the experience to educate and empower others about cancer and living well. In 1997, he founded the Lance Armstrong Foundation, a nonprofit organization that has raised more than $325 million from the sales of yellow Livestrong bracelets alone. He also helped found Athletes for Hope, a charity that helps professional athletes get involved in charitable causes. He has appeared on many T.V. shows to spread awareness about cancer.

Lance Armstrong has accomplished so much in raising awareness about cancer and he contributed so much to our ongoing fight against cancer… all because he turned an obstacle into an opportunity. Because of that alone, Lance Armstrong is still worth honoring.