Tag Archives: gold medals

Own It…Even When It Hurts

Once again, hats off to the world of sports for providing yet additional support to an age-old adage. Ownership of your decisions and a bit of contrition will go much farther, much faster, than denial. Denial in the face of facts is never a winning strategy – never. It simply delays the inevitable.

The latest example involves Floyd Landis and the world of cycling.  Shocking as it might be to learn of doping in sports, Floyd now acknowledges he was doping…after 4 years of denials.  Of course he denied the test results (both of them) and fought his 2 year ban from the sport and accused everyone and every institution remotely tied to the process as being tainted and aligned against him.   4 years, a book, a legal defense fund, countless interviews pleading his innocence and several million dollars later he admits it.  He looks like a complete fool.  His reputation and legacy totally trashed.

To reinforce the lesson, consider a few quick case studies of other epic sports dopers:

Barry Bonds – Denies It – Publicly hated – the face of the steroid era.

Alex Rodriquez – Owns it – Totally forgotten in a matter of weeks.

Roger Clemens – Denies It – The sordid details keep on seeping out – his reputation and legacy in tatters.

Marion Jones – Denies It – Convicted of Perjury and spent 6 months in prison.

The NFL – Ignore it – Maybe you will be lucky and no one will call you on it…maybe.

Mark McGuire – Ignore it then own it – The stain lingers, but will never disappear.

So what is the lesson?  Simple really, just own it.  Good or bad, easy or hard, clean or dirty, just own what you do, the decisions you make and the path you choose.  No one is expected to be perfect.  If there is anything that sports has shown us it is that people will forgive and forget if you just own the mistake.  Admit it, show contrition, learn from it and move forward.  The human capacity for empathy is almost without limit.  Honesty is a powerful thing – everyone gets it.

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And a Few More – Olympic Lessons

In the spirit of the closing ceremonies – here are a few additional lessons learned, or at least reinforced thanks to the Olympics.

If there is one thing Vancouver 2010 taught us yet again, there is a huge value in just being nice.  Seriously, who in the world does not like Canada?  The Canadians are able to earn the respect of the world by just being nice.  Not everything went exactly to plan, and yes there was even tragedy, but in the end being nice and trying tends to win over even the greatest skeptics.

To all who toil in relative obscurity, there is the U.S. Men’s Nordic Combined  Team.  After 86 years of being shut out, along comes an amazing series of medals in both the team and individual events.  And a special nod to Billy Demong for his “hat trick” of a gold medal, an accepted marriage proposal and being chosen by his team to be the flag bearer for the closing ceremonies.  All that work that no one sees does eventually pay-off.  Sometimes, in a really big way, on a really big stage.

To Steve Holcomb and the U.S. 4 man bobsled team – another drought broken – only 62 years on this one.  But in Steve Holcomb, a reminder to all that sometimes champions do come in the all too usual shapes and sizes.  It is rare to see, but sometimes the best can really look like the guy down the street, belly and all.  Never make a judgement on the competition, or anyone else, just based on looks.

The ability to compartmentalize and focus on the task at hand is just a part of life.  In good times and bad, in adversity or elation, joy or anguish, there is a very real need to be able to push all other issues to the side and focus on what has to be done.  Joanne Rochette showed amazing focus in the face of unimaginable loss.  It was a powerful and harsh reminder that there are times when we must compartmentalize and push forward – for us and for those who are counting on us.

And lastly, to the Canadian Women’s Hockey Team – finally somebody just flat-out has fun after winning gold.  Of course it is hockey, and it is Canada, but a post match celebration complete with Molson and cigars on the ice – well done.  And to Steve Keough, the Canadian Olympic Committee spokesman and his comments about the teams post game fun: “In terms of the actual celebration,” he said, “it’s not exactly something uncommon in Canada.”  Awesome!  In our all too sterile and politically correct, hide our emotions and only have “fun” within the bounds of “proper decorum” world,  it is so nice to see a team just enjoy the moment on their terms.  And to see “management” back their people – incredibly refreshing.  Well done on all fronts.

Yes the Olympics are a grandiose ideal.  A utopian vision of peace and harmony, of athletic competition in the name of excellence for the sole purpose of bringing people together.  Reality says it is a money-making machine.  Packaged and feed to us in a sterilized and commercialized manner.  The cynic says it is all corporations and sponsors, or just state sponsored propaganda wrapped up in an outlandish ideal of fringe sport silliness.  Whatever.  Sometimes it is worth it every few years to take a few moments and take in the spectacle that is Olympic sport.  Maybe we might learn a lesson or two along the way.

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Olympic Lessons

The Olympics, love them or hate them, pack a ton of lessons into a very short time window.  For that I am thankful, and yes even a fan.  Winter or Summer, live or tape delayed, mainstream or obscure, I take in as much competition as possible and I come away a better person for it.  Not better because of the sports, but better because of the life lessons.  After only 5 days of competition, there have already been some great lessons to share.

Here are a couple nods and tips of the hat, or tuque as the hosts would say…

Bode Miller for reminding us that sometimes our best is just not good enough. Our best on a given day might be close, it might earn us a bronze, the separation between first and third might be an infinitely small margin, but in the end it is not enough. However, we should take pride in the work we did, the effort we gave. We should never not be happy with our best.

To Lindsay Vonn for showing us that champions play through the pain.  Sometimes the joy of victory is truly worth the price of pain. Sometimes the pain is physical, but sometimes it is emotional or even financial.  Champions drive on and rise to the occasion regardless of the pain.

To the South Korean Short Track team for the age-old lesson in “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. When the team is set to sweep the medals in an event, there is no need to try to pass your teammate in the final corner – NONE.   Share in the victory together – teammates winning matters – always.

A thank you to Team Canada for rising to the challenge of massive external expectations, and especially to Alexandre Bilodeau for a lesson in perspective.  Being shut out in two previous games had brought a good deal of media hyped national expectations, but Alexandre Bilodeau’s win in moguls, though somewhat unexpected, was clearly a win for more than just one person, it was a win for Canada.  More importantly, it was his comments about his motivation and his older borther that were an amazing lesson in perspectives.  “Every morning, he wakes up and has all the right to complain, and he doesn’t complain”  he said about his older brother Frederic who was born with cerebral palsy.  That is perspective.

For the reinforcement in excellence, in the reminder that getting to the top is not the end of the journey, but the beginning.  Being the best requires relentless focus, committment, and the internal drive to push yourself beyond your last gold medal performance.   Thank you Shaun White for yet again going higher, spinning faster and flipping more than anyone ever has…your ability to “uncork” better tricks is the mark of a true champion.  Not a one-off winner, but a long-term champion.

No Winter Olympic discussion would be complete without a mention of Lindsay Jacobellis – a gifted athlete and consistent winner in her sport.  However, in the Winter Olympics world she has become the face of wasted opportunity and missed redemption.  But it was her class and professionalism in the Small Final, the consolation race in Snowboardcross, that reminds us that positives can be drawn from losses just as they can from winning.  In the crucible of loss comes maturity, humility, commitment, focus, sportsmanship and often future champions.  The winner of the Small Final gains nothing, no medals, no press, no praise.  What they do gain is another opportunity to remind us that win or lose, you always give it your all – always.

No question there will be more lessons in the coming days, and there are others we have already missed.  But in the end there are lessons to be learned during these two weeks, just as there are in everyday life.  But here, on a global stage, the lessons are stark and immediate, pointed and gripping, and even edited and spoon fed to us in the prime time broadcast.  Take a few moments and soak it all in – it is time well spent.

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