The Olympics have always been my favorite of all sporting events. They represent the best in human development, they are rich in history, reflect many of the qualities of self-mastery and that ‘no risk, no nothing’ philosophy of Black Belt development. In fact, the Olympics are a great example of all four of the Circles of Mastery at work at one time;
In the words of Apolo Ohno, “did you do everything today that you could to be at your best?” The internal development, overcoming fears, resisting the temptation to take the path of least resistance, the discipline to stay on the path of development. It’s the character development that must preclude the physical development, the gratitude for accomplishments and lessons learned but the humility to avoid being absorbed by your autobiography. With world class competition there is no room for ego or hype or short cuts, all you see is honor and codes of respect.
There is no Olympic gold medal in ten easy lessons, there is no performance enhancement, there is only paying the price daily and the relentless physical conditioning. Each athlete must also pay that price in full and up front before any rewards are ever realized. And when those foundations of conditioning have been laid, the mastery of the fundamental skills can begin. The tools of the trade, the basics that must be practiced over and over with thousands of repetitions until they become second nature. Chet Holmes in his book, The Ultimate Sales Machine says, “success lies not in doing a thousand different things twelve times but twelve things one thousand times.” It’s a formula for skills mastery that is as old and time tested as the Greek games itself.
Many Olympic events are team efforts and success relies on the synergy that each member helps to create through cooperation and contribution. Leadership arises naturally and the strategies & tactics must be fine tuned where everyone’s strengths are maximized and their weaknesses are made irrelevant. There must be consistent alignment and agreement of each member that the needs of the team take precedence over individual needs. Sincere, open communication, the development of trust and a sense of family comradery all evolve as part of the team mastery.
The Olympics are a fantastic example of how an organization can rally around common vision, ideas and ideals. In fact, countries set major political and ideological differences aside and the world in general comes together to execute on that common vision of excellence. This tradition has evolved with the institution itself and remains cultivated by the leadership, the coaches and the athletes. It’s like an orchard that bears quality fruit, season after season, because of effective systems in place grown with great care and passion. It grows from the seeds planted in the first three circles.
One final note…I had been penciling thoughts about the Olympics all week and the unfortunate tragedy of this year’s Winter Olympiad brought two concepts to the forefront. The first is self-sacrifice for a higher cause and the belief in the ideals of personal excellence. This time, it came at a cost rarely seen in sports and business. The cost of a promising life. It serves as a reminder to those in the leadership role of their responsibility to leave no stone unturned to safe guard those who put themselves at risk. Second is courage, the courage to go on in the face of tragedy. It’s the heroic, often unsung personal courage where one must press on despite the pain and fear of loss.
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but doing what you know you must despite that fear. ” -Capt Eddie Rickenbacker