What Can We learn from The Olympics ?

This summer was an incredibly busy time at All Saints Episcopal School campus. We were managing 13 major construction projects all across campus during some pretty unusual times and with a very tight window of less than three months. With that said, I will not remember the summer of 2021 as one of rest or relaxation. However, one thing I did find that helped me decompress and escape each evening when I finally made it home was the 2020/2021 Summer Olympics.

There were so many amazingly compelling stories and charismatic athletes it was easy to be pulled into the excitement. Night after night I found myself immersed in the competition and excellence of the Olympic games. Yet, the more I watched the more I began to ponder what lessons can we learn from the games.

I came up with Four (4) BIG things we can learn from the Olympics:

  1. You have to take Risks - Some Olympics events are easy to follow, especially the events that simply recognize a winner who is the fastest, jumps the farthest, or goes the highest. However, some of my favorite events were the ones that had a bit more complexity in the scoring or the strategy. As an equestrian, of course I loved the Eventing. I also jumped right into some of the new events like rock climbing, surfing, and skateboarding. But, like the large majority of people across the world, found myself tuned into the gymnastics competitions. There were so many great lessons in gymnastics this year but the one that stood out to me was Suni Lee’s Gold Medal win. It wasn’t just her win but how she did it. You see, Suni only took first place in her favorite event on the bars but placed much lower in the vault and floor routine. But here is what I learned: her strategy was to go after the most difficult routines knowing she might not have a perfect run but that she would score higher based on difficulty. If Suni had played it safe in even one of the events she would not have won gold. The lesson is “If you're not trying anything difficult you need to be perfect” yet “we don’t have to be perfect if we are going for the higher difficulty”.
  1. Winning is a Team Sport - It was amazing to me to hear the stories of the individual athletes and their accomplishments. However, every time the story always unfolded to share that the journey had been accomplished only through the help of countless others. I began to research and learned of the “Athlete’s Entourage Commission” an Olympic body of thousands of individuals who support the athletes. From Coaches, trainers, medical staff, psychologists to family and friends many were involved in that moment on the world’s stage. It reminded me of the incredible “Power of the Group” that I speak about often. We are always better when we collaborate and work with others. The powerful parable, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” certainly comes to mind.

  2. Resilience comes from Focus - As I watched the Eventing competition I was drawn by the courage and confidence that England’s Laura Collett displayed. Her story is an inspirational reminder of what those traits look like. After a riding injury she was nearly killed and was resuscitated five times suffering a broken shoulder, punctured lung and ribs, and bone punctured her eye leaving her blind. After being in a coma she began the long road to recovery and was determined to ride again. She now rides at the highest level and says that because of her vision loss she has to be more focused and rely more on her horse during the incredible challenges of facing jumps in the saddle. She speaks of the strength and courage she gained from hyperfocus as the UK went on to win the silver medal in the games. I hope we can inspired by Laura Collett and remember people in our life desire our absolute focus and attention. And when we give that we are prepared and ready for the incredible journey we share no matter what comes.

  3. Share the Success - One of my favorite moments of the games was in the pole vault competition. Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar and Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy had dreamed of an Olympic final in the men's high jump their whole life. As they entered the final jumps Barshim and Tamberi failed to clear the last height, they were left with a choice, the byproduct of a strange exclusion in a 135-page rulebook: They could have a jump-off for gold, or share it. The official hadn't even finished explaining the rule when Barshim interjected. "Can we have two golds?" he asked. The official responded, “Yes.” The two men didn't say anything. They didn't need to. "I looked at him, he looked at me, we understand," Barshim said later. They would share Olympic gold. It was such a beautiful moment to see two great athletes realize they didn’t have to beat their opponent to be a gold medal winner. We can all share the gold if we lift each other up and help them soar to new heights.