Tag Archives: olympics

Commitment – Rockets, Tom, Olympics and Teddy

There is something almost reassuring in seeing those who put in the work, who took the chance, who totally commit, succeeding, or even failing.  Just this month, we have seen a rocket take a car into space, a privately owned, designed and produced rocket and car.  Seen an older athlete return to the top of his sport, beating folks half his age.  An entire stream of unknown athletes burst onto the world stage, taking gold in events that require the skill, daring, joy and reckless abandon of youth.  Oh, and witnessed the most accomplished quarterback in football yet again lead his team to the Super Bowl.  But what we also saw in these events was failure.  The main rocket missed its remote recovery point, the quarterback lost the Super Bowl, and scores of Olympians melt in the heat of the moment.

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in that gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

  • President Theodore Roosevelt

Watching Shaun White, Chloe Kim and Red Gerard fly, to witness a private company launch a massive rocket, a test launch, complete with a privately produced car as the payload, broadcast live, oh and recover perfectly their booster rockets – all amazing moments.  It was equally rewarding to see Tom Brady slow the hands of time, but lose a game.  Or to see all the success of SpaceX and the Falcon Heavylift not include the perfect recovery of the main rocket.  Witnessing Mikaela Shiffrin win gold in her first event, then be edged off the podium in her specialty, or Lindsay Vonn to settle for bronze in her first event.  All incredible achievements, but not perfection.  Yet they all, in sport or business, have encountered great success, great failure, but through it all, none have never wavered.  Elon, Tom, Lindsay, Shaun, Chloe, Red and Mikaela continue pressing forward.

It takes courage to fail.  It takes commitment to try.  But it takes faith to try again, and again, and again until the moment of truth.  Winning is great, but getting back into the game after the crash, after the loss, after the defeat or just coming up a bit short, well that is the domain of the champion

Again, it is Teddy Roosevelt who said it so much better:

“It is not the critic who counts;
not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly;
who errs and comes short again and again;
who knows great enthusiasms,
the great devotions;
who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement,
and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly
so that his place shall never be with those timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”


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Olympic Lessons and Too Much Television

As expected, there has been a lot of “tv time” over the last two weeks.  Sleep patterns are off, productivity is down, and I really want a kayak and my own white water slalom course.  But above all, it is the lessons the two weeks of athletic competition teach and remind us of that is the real benefit.  Now the geography and cultural lessons are not a bad benefit either.

So, what have we all learned?

– If you are going to be involved in something where there are winners and losers, rankings and awards, do NOT do it in a field that is judged.  Utter committment to something to have your fate determined by others – no thank you.  Give me points scored, targets hit, times recorded, or whatever quantifiable scoring system you wish, but not judges.

– Clearly, Ryan Lochte wanted to beat Michael Phelps in a head-to-head race in the Olympics. Once he did it, he never raced as well.  Motivation and goals are funny things.  It was interesting how much better Michael Phelps swam after loosing a few races.

– Hope Solo, and really anyone who struggles to control their emotions, needs to stay off Twitter. Though it will rarely if ever make you millions, I am confident Twitter can cost you millions.

– It does not matter what you have done. It only matters what you do in the moment. #1 ranking, reigning World Champion, world record holder, being the favorite – none of that matters when you are in the moment.

– The general public LOVES to be spoon fed their entertainment. Tape delay, knowing the results, sappy back stories and profiles – it has all been consumed at an unprecedented level. Easy and prepackaged – it’s what people want.

– There is now, and probably always has been, just a certain percentage of folks who will never be happy.   They just have to snipe at things.  The irony is that all of the snarky comments and criticisms are usually delivered while the person is doing the thing they are criticizing.  The bashing of the Olympics was done as folks were sitting and watching.  Really?

– Misty and Kerri.  First off, when you can go by one name, you have truly “made it”.  But it is that reminder that loving what you do, and with whom you do it, is the key to greatness.

– Just be nice – it makes such a huge difference.  Gabby Douglas will be the face, well certainly the smile, of these games.  Not only did she perform when it mattered most, but she did it all with a smile.  Everyone likes the positive, warm and just plain likeable person…especially when they win.

– The corollary to the above is also true – not everyone will like the arrogant and cocky person, but they will certainly respect them IF they deliver.  Say what you will about Usain Bolt, but there is no doubt that guy delivers.  Flat out amazing.

– Yet again, it is proven that everyone loves Canada.  Who, other than the host country, always gets the loudest ovation at the Opening Ceremonies?  Canada.

For all the obscure events, sappy stories, P&G commercials, and endless pitches for NBC’s fall programing line-up (Matthew Perry anyone?) it has been a great two weeks.  Yes it was all tape delayed, but it is still an amazing thing to see absolute perfection in motion.  The way Bolt runs, Phelps swims, and Douglas flies, or any of the other folks who toil in total anonymity, it is an amazing thing to see.   Thanks for sharing.


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Olympic Opportunities

Yes, I am an Olympic geek. Totally admit it. I like the whole thing – the spectacle of it all, the competition of course, the culture, the sob stories, the history, the international spirit and ideal, the obscure events (Modern Pentathlon), and of course the raw commercialism and pure excess. It is great entertainment for two weeks, served up in wonderful prepackaged clips and snippets.

But what I love most about the Olympics is that sometimes there is a very special someone who comes along and has “that moment”. They rise to the occasion, they not only win, but they capture the moment, they create a legacy and memory that lasts a lifetime. But it is how they then go on to literally make a business and career out of that moment –  the business side of me is always in awe.

Think about it – Bruce Jenner, Mike Eruzione, Mary Lou Retton, Nadia Comaneci – all had their moment a generation or more ago, yet they all quite literally live in our public consciousness. They have made a career out of their moment. Pitching products, reality television, motivational speaking, coaching, consulting or just flat being paid to be places, they have parlayed a moment in time, one opportunity, into a lifetime of success. Pretty amazing really.

For all of us, there is a moment of opportunity that is out there waiting to be seized. Granted, it might not be on a stage quite as vast as the Olympics, but that moment is out there.  It might not be on the track, in the gym or on the ice; it might be at work, at home, in the community, or quite literally anywhere.  The key for everyone is to be ready to seize that moment when it comes.

It is easy to poke fun and say that “they only did that one thing…once”, but there were years of toil and sweat, practice and pain, sacrifice and focus that went into earning their opportunity.  They were ready to seize their moment.  Then to parlay that moment into a lifetime of success…just amazing.  It is available to all of us if we follow their Olympic example and seize the opportunities that are out there.  Prepare, train, focus, perform, achieve…and maybe parlay that moment into a lifetime business.

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Lance Armstrong and the American Way

Tis the season, time for summer fun, family vacations, the Tour de France, and the Olympics – and of course the always topical talk of doping in sports. Gotta love international sport. Where else can one combine lessons in geography, culture and biochemistry! It is interesting, or maybe ironic, but the only athletes to really suffer any professional sanction, criminal convictions or just plain condemnation are those who compete in international sport. Yes, there have been a few NFL and MLB players suspended, but nothing of any significance, and certainly not at the height of their careers. Marion Jones has went to jail, Ben Johnson surrendered his gold, countless cyclist and track athletes have been banned for years, if not life, and keeping with the spirit of the season, Lance is back in the news…again.

What I find ironic in the whole Lance story is that well, to use a phrase, he was just being the classic American.  No, not that every American cheats, far from it.  However, if there is something to the American Spirit, or American Way, it is to win…always.  If there is anything American’s do, it is to take things “to the next level”.  American’s push the boundaries, they strive to gain more, to overcome obstacles.  They leverage their optimism to go above and beyond the accepted norm.  They plan, they analyze, they grind, they take risks and they find a better way.

The country was founded on the idea of more is better.  The British had an interesting system of somewhat representative government and a capitalist economy.  The colonies took those ideas and ran with them.  If a little democracy and freedom was good – more is better – the Revolution was on!  The Japanese implement the Kaizen theories in business and manufacturing, America takes the ideas to the next level with Six Sigma, Lean, Just-In-Time and a host of other quality and efficiency programs.  America goes absolutely hog-wild when it comes to pushing limits; the old “taking it to the next level” thing.  It is just the American way – better, faster, more – win!

And so we comeback to sports and international competition.  Lance, for all that he might or might not have done, is a product of his environment – he is and was a reflection of the American Way – good or bad, he is what he is.  Cycling was a European sport.  Americans came to the game only recently, and when the first group of Americans broke into the sport, they did it as American Pioneers are want to do – they came in loud, rough and hard.  Those guys of Team 7-11 were a wild and tough bunch.  They won a little, and they intimidated a lot.  They were classic Yanks in a Euro show, and it did not go over well with the old guard.  Greg LeMond played by the Euro rules and won, but as a quasi Euro on a European team.  Now who knows exactly how it all went down, but doping in cycling, and sports in general, exploded in the late 80’s and early 90’s. In cycling specifically, was it because of the American threat to the “old guard” – no one will ever know, but the timing fits.  (Note:  There is an entire Cold War component to doping in sports, but why bother going down that path)

So there it is, Lance and the new American team see the field on which they are going to compete – drugs are there.  If they are going to win, which is the only way an American team knows how to complete, then they have to be smarter.  Did this mean they were also doping?  Who knows, but they certainly trained smarter, competed smarter, leveraged technology better and just flat-out raced smarter.  If they did dope, they certainly doped smarter.  Look at the test results – Lance nor any of his teammates were caught when everyone else on other teams were.  If nothing else, it is telling.

The American Way is an interesting thing…it is a winning attitude, it is a risk taking attitude.  It is a willingness to push boundaries, and a willingness to sacrifice to improve one’s situation.  It is certainly not a bad thing – look at the society it has created and the innovations it has spawned.  Yes, everyone can point to problems or short comings, but the overall track record of “The Grand Experiment” is amazing.  And Lance Armstrong is a product of that environment.  He attained amazing results and has done incredible things for himself and others.  Did he push the boundaries – absolutely.  Did he do some things that are at a minimum “on the edge” – almost certainly.  But then again, is not being on the edge just another piece of the American Way?

Not my place, nor frankly my concern, of who is “right or wrong” in this never-ending drama.  All I know is that I was entertained watching a guy race a bike. I still do find it entertaining to watch anyone race a bike frankly.  Lance made for great fun and conversation, plus lead to a story that has inspired a few folks, not to mention a foundation that has left the world a bit better than it was.  Plus yellow bracelets became a fashion trend – that is staggering when you think about it.  But above all, Lance has reminded me that there is something to the American Way – it can and does do so much good, but like all things, balance is key.

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Facebook, Innovation, Entrepreneurs and the High Road

It is tough when you are cut just before the big break.  Anyone that played sports probably knows the feeling.  Even MJ was cut once, or so goes the story.  Not many people remember Pete Best, and when they do it is as the guy that Ringo replaced. Well, a new generation has a new face for being “cut right at the moment of greatness” – Eduardo Saverin, one of the co-founders of Facebook. Thanks to the success of the recently released movie “The Social Network” his story as a co-founder is there for all to see.

What is apparent from the movie is that Mr. Saverin, to one degree or another, got the proverbial “short end of the stick” in his dealings with his former partner.  Granted, it is a movie, but there is no denying that Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook made billions while Eduardo Saverin was left behind. Not to worry, Eduardo Saverin, thanks to a bit of help from the courts, has done quite well all things being equal.  It is not the financial success that is striking about Mr. Saverin, but rather the high road he took in his column last week on CNBC.  He could have been bitter, jaded, or even tried to ever so gently enhance his part of the story. He did nothing of the sort, rather he took the high road.

It is a great read.  He espouses opportunity, collaboration, and entrepreneurship.  That others have the chance he and his partners did to create, to innovate, to be entrepreneurs, and above all to succeed.  His closing paragraph is amazing:

While watching the “Hollywood version” of one’s college life is both humbling and entertaining, I hope that this film inspires countless others to create and take that leap to start a new business. With a little luck, you might even change the world.

What a great story and example of how to conduct oneself – always.  Well done on a host of levels.  Of course having a billion or so in equity helps.

In the event anyone needs another reminder that taking the high road is always the best course – there is that other classic story of being cut just before the big win…Herb Brooks.  As in coach Herb Brooks and the 1980 “Miracle on Ice”.  The same Herb Brooks who as a player was the last man cut from the 1960 US Olympic Hockey Team – the only other one that has won olympic gold. Karma is a funny thing sometimes.

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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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