May 8

The Persistence of Shuster

May 8, 2018

Personal Growth

The United States curling team—playing a winter sport almost entirely unknown in the U.S. outside of Minnesota and North Dakota—has never been an international power, a distinction belonging to countries like Norway and Sweden, where ice is as common as water.

But then in 2006, the U.S. curling team won the bronze medal in the Winter Olympics, and it was considered a miraculous leap forward. In 2010, however, the team finished last, and next-to-last in 2014. John Shuster was on all three of those teams, but after the 2014 debacle, he was dropped from the team—later to be re-invited.

Perception of the team’s failures became so bad that the word “shuster” was added to the Urban Dictionary, a verb meaning to fail to meet expectations, particularly at a moment critical for success or even slightly respectable results. For example, “Man, he really shustered that.” The team became known as Team Reject.

In preparation for the 2018 Olympics, Shuster—a part-time salesman at a sporting goods store—invited three of his buddies from Minnesota to form a team with him: an engineer, a liquor salesman who competes in eight-year-old sneakers with holes in them, and a technician for a consumer goods company. They just got themselves together. It’s not like there was a national search or competition or training camp from which the best curlers in the country were selected.

Six days before the gold medal round in 2018, the U.S. team lost to Norway, which put them on the brink of elimination from the Olympics. After the game, John Shuster, the captain of the team—in his fourth consecutive Games—sat down and felt dejected. But then he said to himself, “This is silly. I’m getting my heart broken by this sport, and this is silly. This is the Olympics.”

Shuster’s team then won the next five games, including the gold medal, where Shuster sealed the win by scoring five points in a single “end”—like an inning in baseball—which is a rare accomplishment.

Despite uncounted hours of wearying practice sessions, one loss after another in international competition, and two humiliating Olympics in a row, John Shuster didn’t give up. He persisted, he practiced, and he continued competing. And he won the gold medal.

Winning a gold medal in the Olympics is not the definition of success in life, but genuine happiness is. And we can find happiness with the same kind of persistence demonstrated by John Shuster: persistence in finding love, learning to love others, and being responsible. Never give up, and you’ll find the joy you seek.

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