the olympic spirit, as in life and business

Man oh man, I love the Summer Olympics. 

There is something about it that gets me all giddy inside.  I love the patriotism of rooting for our countrymen, but it’s much more than that.  The Olympics can be a reminder of what we can be and the spirit in which we can live in life and in business. 

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

So says the Olympic creed.  I’m reminded by reading this that we are at times overtaken by the taste of the win.  As is in the competitive spirit, the human spirit, we want to win.  And as shown through the newsworthy medal counts and graphics of how many gold, silver and bronze medals we have by nation – we want to win A LOT.  Who doesn’t want to be the Nation with the most medals, the Nation with the biggest bragging rights?  The glory is in winning – in standing on the podium and hearing your National Anthem and seeing your flag elevated the highest of all.  And still, the creed reads that the important thing about the games is really the play – the games themselves, the taking part.  It’s a reminder to the Athletes that indeed, you’re best to remember your moments of struggle, your journey both to the games and during the games, not just the win or loss at the end.

And so I take a moment to reflect on this as an athlete in my own games.  I’m not an Olympic Athlete, my shot-put is perhaps as sad as it gets and if you’ve ever seen me play beach volleyball, table tennis or soccer – you would be clear about my non-elite status.  Nevertheless, I’m reminded that in my own games, in life and in business, it is up to us as leaders and followers to purposefully take part, to keep our eyes, ears  and hearts open for the struggles, the work, the sweat and the triumphs of the journey along the way.  And in appreciation, note the new muscles that have been built, the learning we’ve done about our customers, what we offer to customers, and about ourselves.  

I’m also reminded, as the London Olympics opening ceremony closes after the Parade of Nations, how much more beautiful we are as a global team.  Despite our different flags, our different costume and language, we are all common in the spirit inside.  The spirit to play hard, to take part, to fight well, and to make ourselves and others proud – and, sure, to win.  And because of our differences, the stories, experiences and skills brought to the stadium are all unique and special – and never disappoint in making the games more powerful, more interesting and more compelling.  And you find yourselves rooting for not only your own countrymen, but for those in other uniform colors that have captured your heart.  (Read about a few, like Emil Zatopek, who was the first and remains the only, to win the gold medal in the 5,000 and 10,000 meter races as well as the Marathon in 1952 – Helsinki).

It’s simply a moment in time.  But as the world comes together on the London stage, it’s an opportunity to think of our great strengths as a global team, the strengths we have and the opportunity ahead of us to use them to the greatest power to tell our most compelling story.  The time being now for our regional teams to come together on a world stage and meet in the middle of an arena and dance, play, work, and build our most well orchestrated, inspired global story.  And to not forget about the play, the journey we we will be on to get there.