Has the “Inspiring a Generation” Games inspired your business?
After 17 days during which we have watched 26 sports, over 300 competitions, and over 950 medals awarded the Olympic Games 2012 is over. We have seen some extraordinary drama and witnessed the ecstasy and agony of the world’s sports men and women striving to achieve their dream. It has been truly memorable.
Games Chairman, Lord Sebastian Coe said, “The spirit of these Olympic Games will inspire a generation”. The genuine hope is that it will, but what was it that inspired this generation of Olympians and what can we learn from the stories they have told about their journey to success? For today’s generation of people in business, is there anything the Olympic athletes can teach us so that we can be, as their motto says, faster, higher, stronger?
You need to have a dream
London 2012 saw US swimmer, Michael Phelps, become the most decorated Olympian of all time with 22 medals, 18 of which were gold.
The BBC’s swimming presenter, Sharron Davies, asked Phelps, “When you started out your career all those years ago, did you ever see this? Was this what you were dreaming of?”
Phelps’ replied, “I dreamt of being the greatest, and Bob (Bowman, his coach since 11 years old) and I have worked together to become that. We’ve been able to do everything we have ever wanted.
Double gold-winner at 10,000 and 5,000 meters, Mo Farah, said, “When you have a vision and you have a dream, you dig in more.”
It’s important to have a clear idea of what you do well (which should be what you enjoy doing well) and set your sights to be the best that you can. Having and maintaining a clear vision motivates you and those around you who share that vision. Motivation gives you energy and helps you to reach beyond the ordinary.
You need to plan your course
Whilst it’s very important to know where you are heading, how are you going to get there? What can you do to be better at what you do?
The GB cycling team had an incredibly successful Games, winning an amazing 12 medals, 8 of which were gold. David Brailsford, Performance Director for British Cycling told how they work on a system of what they call marginal gains.
“The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together. We really figure out what it takes to win whatever it is we want to win. We then prioritise because you know you cannot win everything.”
Of course it takes talent to be successful, but by improving what you do – even if only marginally on a few things – you improve your chances of being successful.
You need a good team
Whilst it is the athletes that win the prize, no athlete can ever be successful by just their efforts alone. They need people around them to support, guide and encourage them.
Team GB’s, long jump gold medal winner, Greg Rutherford had considered retiring after failing at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and repeated injury problems. After winning gold at London 2012 he said, “I think I am very fortunate to have a fantastic team and fantastic family around me.”
So many of Team GB’s winning athletes testified to the difference the crowd made to their performance. Ed Clancy, who won bronze in the Men’s Cycling Omnium event said, “I felt really rubbish until the crowd started cheering, but then it was like a light switch had been turned on.”
Where do you draw your support from? Who guides and challenges you? Who cheers you on when the going gets tough? In business, especially if you are on your own, it’s hard to stay on track and it’s easy to be discouraged, so you need support and you must avoid becoming isolated. Maybe you can join a local learning and support network or find someone you trust who’s been successful in business to guide and encourage you.
You need to believe, work hard and not give up!
The margin between the medals is often be a very small one. It’s been said that often the most disappointed athletes are those that win silver, just missing out on gold, and fourth, missing a medal by just one place.
At 36 years old, Kath Grainger entered the London 2012 Olympics as the most decorated British woman of rowing. But despite winning six world titles, for more than a decade the prize of Olympic gold had eluded her, instead winning a trilogy of silvers.
It would have been easier to retire and look back on a fantastic career, despite never winning gold. However, Kath Grainger, described by Anna Watkin, her partner in the women’s double sculls, as the ‘life and soul’ of the British women rowers , has a self-belief and determination that rowed her and Anna on to gold.
Anna Watkins said, “You don’t get a medal just for believing”. For champion athletes it is that ability to believe and to act on that belief that sets them apart, a determination to persevere and not give up that carries them over the line ahead of their opponents.
When we fail (as all champions do) or negative thoughts or opinions stand in our way, it is how we respond that can make the difference between winning and losing.
For six races in sailing’s Finn class, Team GB’s Ben Ainslie could not beat Dane Jonas Hogh-Christensen. He was trailing in the standings and in danger of missing gold, but Ben was not ready to accept defeat. Ainslie was angered when Hogh-Christensen and Dutchman Pieter-Jan Postma teamed up against him saying he had hit a mark, forcing him to do a penalty turn. “They’ve made a big mistake,” Ainslie said, “They’ve made me angry and you don’t want to make me angry.”
Ainslie could have been defeated by the negative, but instead he used the energy of his anger to turn it into a positive which then became the spur to him winning his fourth Olympic gold.
How do you deal with defeat and demotivating negative thoughts or opinions? Do they take the wind out of your sails causing you to give up or do you look at the clouds and find a shift in the wind that gets you moving forward again?
Have a goal and be extraordinary
The final word goes to Samantha Murray, winner of the silver medal in the last event of the Games, the Modern Pentathlon. Four years ago, Samantha was doing her A Levels and although competing at that time in the event, she was well short of international level.
“Honestly, if you have a goal – if there’s anything you want to achieve in life – don’t let anybody get in your way because you can do it. There are so many people and so many things that will feel like they are trying to set you back. But honestly, find the path that you want to take in life and follow it and stick to it because if I can do it, and I’m a normal girl, anyone can do anything they want to do.”
The “Inspiring a Generation” Games has been inspiring and we have been in awe of the great champions like Mo Farah, Jess Ennis, Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps. But most of all, perhaps London 2012 will be remembered as a story of many stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things – not just the stories of the world’s best athletes but also of the people behind the scenes like their families and coaches, and by people like the Games Makers that helped to make the Games such a success.
Has the “Inspiring a Generation” Games inspired you?