In some ways, the Olympics are a complete distraction from life. In others, a complete reflection of life.

The opportunity to watch the Olympics out of the corner of my eye as I go about my office business each day has conjured some interesting reflections.

Some are obvious. The curious power of the Olympics to draw out a sense of nationalism that we forget in the quadrenium between the games. Sports that most of us don’t ever follow, some of us have never heard of, have us on the edge of our seats when a Canadian has a chance to win.

Then there’s the agony of defeat and the ecstasy of victory, often separated by the narrowest of margins—a Polish skater winning by 3/1000’s of a second—or a stroke of misfortune—a snowboarder getting taken out by a competitor and getting a DNF instead of advancing. Or a curling rock getting a “pick.”

Here’s the one that’s got me thinking, though. I watch the Dutch, the Germans, and the Norwegians sweep up medals in their specialty sports, the Dutch in speed-skating, the Germans in the sliding events, and the Norwegians in Nordic skiing. Totally dominant in a specialty.

But I notice a total contrast with the Canadians and Americans, getting a medal here, one there. We pick up a little in every almost sport, don’t dominate any one. We seem to be generalists; they’re specialists.

And I notice a curious correlation: The Dutch, Germans and Norwegians are all largely uni-cultural. Canadians and Americans are multi-cultural.

And I wonder: Is there a reason for the correlation? Does our Olympic success reflect who we are as a culture? Is that by coincidence, by design, or the natural outcome of our dispositions?

We can ask the same about our individual successes in life. How does our success at what we do reflect our personalities, our dispositions? Some of us tend to be more specialists and some of us generalists. Some of us are more focused, others more scattered (like me-ADD). To what extent does our success trajectory reflect our nature?

Are we even on the right path to maximize our natural tendencies? Or are we constantly fighting with our nature to produce results? Will it help us towards success if we reflect on our personal dispositions and act in alignment with them?

In the end, the Dutch, the Germans, the Norwegians, the Americans and the Canadians all pick up about the same number of medals. We just use different paths to get there.

Good thing, Canadians still own hockey and curling!

Or do we?

Go, Canada Go!