“How much is 10,000 calories?” a friend randomly asked the other day. Before I could think of an answer, he quickly followed up his question with, “Because Michael Phelps eats 10,000 calories a day.”

The night before I had just watched Phelps swim in his second Olympic relay and receive his fifth gold medal for this Olympics giving him a total of 10 career gold medals. By the time this article is published, Phelps could have as many as 13 total career Olympic gold medals. Phelps is 6’4 has a size 17-shoe and when he swims, it’s hard to believe that he is in the same category as the others. He is a big fish in a big pond and he makes the others look small. There has never been an athlete more successful than he; to date, he is one of the most decorated Olympians in the world.

Watching him the other night, I try to imagine what it must feel like to be him, to accomplish all your dreams and live beyond the goals you set for yourself all by the time you were 23. I mean, what’s next? What is he ever going to do that is better than winning 13 gold medals and beating several world records?

Unlike Phelps exceeding my personal best at age 23, is not so much of an issue for me. I ran a marathon earlier this year and lets just say I have between a second and two hours to which I could improve on my time and another two hours if I wanted to beat any world records.

I have to admit I am the ultimate underachiever. Well, okay maybe not the ultimate, but I definitely fall into the description of “doesn’t reach full potential.” I procrastinate, while at the same time I try to do too many things at once, never really perfecting any of them. I know I am not alone in my habits and in fact there are a lot of us out there. We have been accused of being scatter brained, scared of success, unwilling to commit, we thrive on distractions, we can get A’s but instead get B’s, we love to read but rarely finish a book and our ideas are exceptional but we lack in follow through.

We are a therapist’s dream; there are dozens of clichés to explain our untapped potential and even more textbook explanations. We can blame our non-supporting and ever critical parents, our non attentive and lackadaisical teachers, the fact that we did or didn’t grow up with money or that it was too much of a burden being the oldest child, we were too ignored as the middle child or too coddled as the youngest child. Whatever our excuse or deeply rooted issue is, the fact remains, we are underachievers. And the truth is most over-achievers probably have a much more checkered past than we do. Bottom line is, we have no real crutch to lean on.

I have a greeting card that I bought 2 years ago, which I hang on the inside of my front door, forcing me to read it everyday, it reads “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”  It is such a loaded yet simple question. The other day when I read it I thought of all the Olympians, not just the gold medalists, but the ones who nobody knows, the ones who know that deep down inside they might not ever stand on the podium, but they are there for the experience, they are there to push themselves to the limit and they are there to achieve greatness, not just for themselves but for our entire country. They are the best of the best and I have to believe that it’s not just because they are athletically inclined but it’s because they took a risk to be the best, they believe in themselves and they are dedicated to their dream.

I hope I am not always an underachiever, I don’t think I will be. Maybe I am just a real late bloomer, When I was a little girl I had this little knitted framed picture on my wall of a little girl, above the girl’s head the picture read: “Be patient, God isn’t finished with me yet.” I have to say, I am lucky because everyone in my circle seems to be very patient, I suppose they know or rather believe more than I do that although I will never beat any world records, I am destined to go for the gold.