Why bronze medalists can be the happiest people on the podium.

Have you heard about Fu Yuanhui yet? She's basically breaking the internet.

Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images.

On Aug. 8, 2016, Fu represented China in the women's Olympic 100-meter backstroke semifinal. It was a close race, and she finished in just 58.95 seconds. And when she heard that time, she basically exploded into smiles.


"Whoooaah! I was so fast!," said Fu, according to The Guardian. "I didn't hold back... I used all of my mystic energy!"

That time earned her third place — a bronze medal — although she didn't realize this until a reporter told her.

"What?!" said Fu. "I came in third? I didn't know!"

Fu's glee at getting third place spread like wildfire, quickly becoming an the subject of hundreds of memes. People loved her and her reaction. (Not to mention how she continued to be awesome in the following days, like when she challenged taboos.)

But contained in all that joy might be an interesting lesson about how we think about our achievements.

Consider this interesting tidbit: A study from 1995 asked people to rate how happy Olympic athletes appeared at the end of their events and during awards ceremonies.

A medal ceremony in the Rio Olympics. Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images.

Though you'd think happiness would rise with placement, the results of the study told another story. Although bronze comes below silver in the "rankings," people who got bronze medals at the Olympics were ranked as happier overall compared with silver medalists.

It turns out that the bronze medalists, like Fu, were happy to just get a medal.

The silver medalists, however, couldn't help but compare themselves to the gold medalists. That's what the researchers thought, anyway. Other researchers have suggested it was because the silver medalists had much stricter expectations.

Later analyses in the 2004 Athens Olympics seemed to reaffirm the happy-bronze/sad-silver dichotomy.

Basically, Fu teaches us that how we frame our achievements can change how we feel about them.

Photo by Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images.

Fu and other bronze medalists like runners Jenny Simpson and Andre De Grasse show us something important. How we think about a win might be more important than winning itself.

Though she mentioned the competition, she didn't dwell on it. Instead, she seemed to be focused on her own journey:

"I want to go back in time, to when I almost gave up, to tell myself that all of the hardship is worth it," she said. "Even though I didn't win first place today, I've already surpassed myself, and I am happy with that."

Family
Courtesy of Houseplant.

In America, one dumb mistake can hang over your head forever.

Nearly 30% of the American adult population — about 70 million people — have at least one criminal conviction that can prevent them from being treated equally when it comes to everything from job and housing opportunities to child custody.

Twenty million of these Americans have felony convictions that can destroy their chances of making a comfortable living and prevents them from voting out the lawmakers who imprisoned them.

Many of these convictions are drug-related and stem from the War on Drugs that began in the U.S. '80s. This war has unfairly targeted the minority community, especially African-Americans.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

Climate change is happening because the earth is warming at an accelerated rate, a significant portion of that acceleration is due to human activity, and not taking measures to mitigate it will have disastrous consequences for life as we know it.

In other words: Earth is heating up, it's kinda our fault, and if we don't fix it, we're screwed.

This is the consensus of the vast majority of the world's scientists who study such things for a living. Case closed. End of story.

How do we know this to be true? Because pretty much every reputable scientific organization on the planet has examined and endorsed these conclusions. Thousands of climate studies have been done, and multiple peer-reviewed studies have been done on those studies, showing that somewhere between 84 and 97 percent of active climate science experts support these conclusions. In fact, the majority of those studies put the consensus well above 90%.

Keep Reading Show less
Nature
via James Anderson

Two years ago, a tweet featuring the invoice for a fixed boiler went viral because the customer, a 91-year-old woman with leukemia, received the services for free.

"No charge for this lady under any circumstances," the invoice read. "We will be available 24 hours to help her and keep her as comfortable as possible."

The repair was done by James Anderson, 52, a father-of-five from Burnley, England. "James is an absolute star, it was overwhelming to see that it cost nothing," the woman's daughter told CNN.

Keep Reading Show less
Heroes

I live in a family with various food intolerances. Thankfully, none of them are super serious, but we are familiar with the challenges of finding alternatives to certain foods, constantly checking labels, and asking restaurants about their ingredients.

In our family, if someone accidentally eats something they shouldn't, it's mainly a bit of inconvenient discomfort. For those with truly life-threatening food allergies, the stakes are much higher.

I can't imagine the ongoing stress of deadly allergy, especially for parents trying to keep their little ones safe.

Keep Reading Show less
popular