I recently photographed the YMCA of Greater Omaha's 150th Anniversary Gala event where Mark Spitz was the featured speaker.
Mark Spitz talked about two things I'll remember from the event. The first related to the all the publicity surrounding Michael Phelps breaking Spitz's Olympic Swimming records. Spitz's comments were that every time there is talk about Phelps and the records Phelps broke, Mark Spitz's name is mentioned. Spitz said if they are still talking about you 40 years after you finished competing (1972 Olympics in Munich), that's not a bad thing.
The second topic began with an audience participation exercise. Around 1,000 people attended the event. Spitz asked all the people in the audience to raise their right arms, then raise their left arms. After everyone raised their arms, he told the story of a boy who received a crisp, new $20 bill every morning from his father for 30 days which the boy placed on his dresser in a pile. Spitz then asked the audience to raise their hands if they thought the boy had $600 on his dresser after the 30 days. Then he asked the audience to raise their hands if they thought the boy had some amount other that $600 on his dresser after the 30 days.
After looking at the show of hands for both questions, Spitz then went say that, in total, less than half the audience raised their hands to either question. Spitz knew that everyone could raise their hands, and most everyone could do the math, but less than half raised their hand to answer what amounted to a simple yes/no question. He compared this demonstration to what he has found in his lifetime. People who participate get a head start over those who choose to stand on the sidelines. In this exercise, over half the audience did not even participate. As a youth, he was at a camp and someone asked who wanted to swim. Spitz had not swum before, but figured he would try. He might not have gone on the the success he had in swimming if he didn't participate at that camp.
So his message was to participate - be it jumping in a pool, in answering a question in a room full of people, or in a classroom exercise - give the experience a chance. You might become an Olympic Gold Medalist.