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August 25, 2016

Lessons from the Olympics

I have to admit it. I am a sports junkie. I found myself glued to the Olympics the past two weeks watching sports, some I had actually never heard of…things like canoe slalom. While everyone is talking about the high points (The Final Five and the US medal count) and the low points (Ryan Lochte’s incident and booing fans), I would like to share one of the things that really struck me as a great lesson from some amazing athletes.

The beach volleyball team of Keri Walsh Jennings and April Ross did not win the gold despite the fact they were the favorites.  Keri Walsh Jennings missed out on what would have been her fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal. Instead they ended up playing the next day for the bronze in what is, according to many, one of the hardest matches to play because one team goes home without a medal.

In an Associated Press article, Walsh Jennings was quoted as saying “It’s crazy what 24 hours can do. This is a highlight of my athletic career, without a doubt.” Go figure. The highlight was not winning gold – but third place. Some might find this strange. I certainly did. After all we love winners and second or third place gets lost in history.

It all became clear when I caught an interview with the two the next morning on NBC. I heard them talk about how they cried when they lost the match for gold. They explained they couldn’t sleep all night and did not know how to handle the devastating defeat after years of training.  Then the interview took a turn and the two women were smiling and almost giddy. Walsh Jennings admitted in the past she did not hold the bronze medal in high regard, but she was wrong and had a new appreciation for the work and effort it takes.

In business we might not have the drama of the Olympics, but we do face our fair share of obstacles and losses – even when we are favored to win. We need to do what this team did – a mind shift and put aside the loss. They focused on a new goal. And, they were truly joyful about the win. No, it wasn’t the gold, but it was something surprisingly special.

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