Full Contact Project Management
Olympic-sized Life and Leadership Lessons
I hate to lose, and probably you do, too. What’s worse, though, is never having the chance to compete, or being too cautious or scared to even try. That whole idea of being willing to take your shot in stressful times or in unfamiliar places really was put on exhibit in August for the entire world to see. Did you catch all of the Full Contact Leadership Lessons along the way?
My local newspaper did its best to lead the charge against Michael Phelps. The headline following his much-awaited first race read, “Phelps Flops!” They, along with media and fans everywhere, seemed to have written him off. And so did some of his competitors, which was a big mistake.
Michael compounded this by not finishing strongly in the next race. He had the gold medal won, but lost focus, didn’t complete this project on time, and suffered what we would call “liquidated damages.” He settled for silver, but should have had gold.
In one race, he finished fourth – out of the money, so to speak. People were giving up on Phelps, in spite of his track record. They said he was too old, didn’t train hard enough, and had lost his edge and competitive spirit. He was written off, and other stars came into view in his place.
But Michael had the last laugh, with 18 gold medals – 22 overall – the most dominant athlete in Olympic history. You see, people were just looking at him on the outside, and completely disregarded his character and discipline. He once said, “I can’t remember the last day I didn’t train.” Why? Because he trained constantly.
And why did he train? As he put it, “It all starts with a goal,” and, “If you want to be the best, you have to do things that other people aren’t willing to do.” He had made the decision to go with great coaching, which develops the heart to compete, to compete fully and completely, even when your brain is telling you that you should flee. There was a huge contrast between physical abilities, attributes and sizes, but everybody had great heart.
Phelps is a big guy at six feet, four inches tall, and he towers over little Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas at four feet, 11 inches. Gabby, nicknamed the “Flying Squirrel,” has as much heart and drive to win as does Phelps. Gabby’s coach told her, “When you put your arm up and you’re ready, it’s not a time to chicken out, but to think of it as an opportunity to show everyone what you can do and what you’ve been training to do.” She reminds herself that, “After sacrificing so much, I had no other choice but to push forward.” And all this great attitude comes at the tender age of 16!
Yet another Olympic athlete is South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius. If Pistorius’ name doesn’t sound familiar, then I’ll bet his nickname does, “Blade Runner.” As a child, Pistorius had both of his legs amputated below the knee, yet he trained hard and eventually qualified to run in the 400-meter race, placing second, ran in the semi-finals, but did not qualify for the finals. But I did watch him run his first race, and it was surreal, like something out of a science fiction movie. Amazing!
Here’s the funny thing about Pistorius: He was the center of a controversy. People wondered if he had an advantage, what with the flexing of those “blades” on his legs. Let me say this again, just so that nobody misses it: People seriously thought that the runner, Oscar Pistorius, had an advantage because his legs had been amputated and he was running with the aid of prosthesis!
Well, Oscar Pistorius is going to get the last laugh on this. I guess I could say, also, that he is going to get the last “lap” on this, as he is a part of South Africa’s 4×400 meter relay team. His country thinks that he is one of its best 400-meter runners, because they put the best on the team, and they want to win.
Remember that “best” means many things: physical ability, heart, attitude, discipline and skill. When you are out there in the world, competing as best you can to provide for your family, company and community, don’t ever lose heart. Besides your company team, don’t forget about your MCAA team, which stands ready to help you with the training and skills you need to not only survive, but also thrive. The training and structure is there. You supply the heart, the discipline and the will to win.