Like most folks, I am enamored by the Olympics. They represent the epitome of strengths, passion, and character rolled into one event on a massive scale.
Think about it.
These athletes spend their whole lives preparing for one chance to be the best at what they do. Pre-dawn practices, long and arduous days of disciplined drills, sacrifices – day after day, year after year – and it all comes down to one event.
If they lose, they must work another four years for another chance. For some, there is only one chance.
These athletes are incredible examples for all of us. They inspire us to reach beyond what’s comfortable to accomplish the almost impossible.
I am especially inspired by the teams and how they work together as one to accomplish the goal. Each athlete shoulders a massive responsibility, knowing that his or her team (and in fact the whole country) is counting on him or her to deliver the performance of a lifetime. Every person, every movement, every second counts as the eyes of the world are upon them.
Here are five symbols of stellar athletes – and, in fact, stellar leaders in any field.
Olympic athletes seem to have a corner on this. At a very young age, they exhibit a passion for a particular sport. Wise is the parent or mentor who recognizes their gifts and gives them the opportunity to live that passion. Stellar leaders have a passion for what they do. Passion is like oxygen – without it, we are lifeless. If you don’t have passion for your work, you need to do yourself and your boss a favor and find work that engages that passion in you. It will breathe life into you, and you will go farther than you ever dreamed.
The athletes have a natural strength for what they do – but only to a degree. I venture to say that none were born with Olympic-caliber abilities. These had to be developed over years and years through rigorous practice and resistance training. We all need to work in our strengths, but we also need to develop them continually via training and challenge. If you’ve ever met an office worker who doesn’t know how to operate a computer and doesn’t care to learn, you know exactly what I’m talking about. We can’t afford to rest on our laurels.
This part amazes me. Here are young people – preschoolers, even – who get up before dawn and head off to the pool, practice field, or gym to hone their skills. They do this every day for years and years. Talk about character! We’ve all known folks with amazing talent who lacked character. They were either unsuccessful or mediocre at best. We have also known folks who possessed less talent, but had a great deal of character. Inevitably, the latter are more successful. These are the stellar athletes – or accountants, or teachers, or business folks. And character is the linchpin.
I always love to look at the faces of the athletes. They are in the midst of thousands of people – noise, lights, sounds, and activities all about – and yet, they are not distracted. They are intently focused on one thing. We can learn from them. If we have a massive goal to accomplish, we are going to have to get “in the zone” – to focus intently on that goal – and not allow ourselves to get sidetracked. We must envision what we will do, and do it. As they stand there waiting for the start, I guarantee these athletes are “seeing” what they will do well before they do it.
For me, some of the most meaningful moments are those where someone fails – and then gets back up and finishes. Those who overcome absolutely inspire me. Those who push through the pain inspire me. Who can forget Keri Strug at the 1996 Olympics? “Naturally successful” folks I’m happy for…but I have to tell you that those who overcome insurmountable odds…those are the ones who inspire me most.
What if we went about our daily lives with this kind of dedication – building strong families, strong working teams, strong companies, and a strong country once again? Does this sound impossible? Well, yes, but then there’s a group over in London right now doing the impossible.