Greatness is Tough, Mediocrity is Easy

greatness-introSome time ago, I had the opportunity to work with my daughter’s soccer team on basic sprinting mechanics.  Her coach gave me about 30 minutes to work with the team, so we started out with some basic drills that the kids could practice at home. About 10 minutes in, I noticed I was losing the focus of team and I had to change things up a bit to refocus them.  I shared a little about the many great athletes I have had the privilege to compete and train with throughout my athletic career.  Without much thought at all, I found myself talking to the group girls about how easy it is to be mediocre and how tough it is to be great. Continue reading

Know Your Moment

There are but a few moments in my life that I can look to where I truly lived completely in that moment and lived it to the fullest. One of those moments was just prior to stepping onto the track at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.  8 years before, I was an alternate on the 1996 Olympic team and 4 years later, despite having one of the highest jumps in the world, I failed to make the US Olympic team. Over the course of those 8 years I had gotten married, got a job, been promoted, then laid off, lost my father, and somehow managed to keep the dream alive of being an Olympian.

I had been to the world championships in 2003 and my performance was not near what I had wanted it to be. Either the nerves or the stadium or the crowd got to me. I had let the outside in and not kept my head straight. I vowed to myself as I sat at the American University in Paris that the next year, the Olympic year, it was going to be different.

So there I sat, waiting at the check-in for athletes at the Olympic Games. It was hot and muggy, it was noisy and  I was surrounded by a group of gladiators that I had seen in battle before. People I had respected for their talents and abilities. For the most part, this group of warriors had competed better than me at nearly every event. But this year something was going to be different. I had made up my mind in the year preceding this event that I was going to be ready, I was going to be focused, I was going to be ready for war.

We moved to the next area as the officials checked our spikes in our bags to make sure that we didn’t have anything in there that we shouldn’t have.  Then the moment arrived that we all had been waiting for. The moment where we would walk onto the  track to represent ourselves, our country and our sport.  We all were standing in line pregnant with anticipation for the competition to begin. I was sitting just outside the tunnel as I walked into the stadium and looked up and saw a stadium filled with people from all over the world. There are not enough words that can describe the emotion and the feelings that come to you in a moment like that. As I reached down and touched the Mondo track I said to myself  “so this is the big show, now it’s time to go to war”.

As I look back  and reflect on those 60 seconds  I can’t help but wonder what would’ve happened if I didn’t take the time to breathe at all in, enjoy it, and then move forward with my mission. So as you look at your life right now and you think about what possible moments you could have, think about how you will respond when you get there. Will you take the time to enjoy it? Will you get lost in the emotion of it and lose your dream as a result? Will you take the time to breathe in and then go out there and have the best day of your life? My hope is that you’ll have the best day of your life. We only go around once so make your moments count.

Succeeding through Failure

Through my years of competing professionally one thing always happened at every competition no matter height of the bar. What was it? The bar fell down three times in a row. When that happened I knew I was done for the day and I would have to improve my performance for the next competition.

As I reflect on those competitions I see that I learned more from the failures than I did from successes.  In this respect, the High Jump is just like real life.  We set a goal and either  we fail or we succeed at the challenge in front of us. Even if we succeed the bar still must go up.  When that happens, the process starts all over again. If we keep raising that bar, failure is inevitable.

It’s important to remember that in the real world, the lessons are the same.  The bar is set and we either clear the bar or it falls off.  We pass or we fail.  The odds are that we will fail along the way.

Will we put the bar back up?  What can we learn from our failures?   My hope is that you do put the bar back up and take the time to learn from your mistakes.   It’s the only way to truly get to where you want to go.

Talent Isn’t Everything

That’s right, I said talent isn’t everything! Time and time again authors, business gurus, and consultants talk about hiring the right people.   It is the truest of truisms that you have to get the right people on the bus in order to be successful. Having said that, the best person isn’t always the one with most talent, education or most experience.

Talent and experience are a huge asset, but sometimes it can get in the way. Throughout my professional career as an athlete, I saw less talented athletes achieve great things and beat more talented athletes because they were motivated and were willing to work for success.  These athletes believed in themselves, they believed in their objective and they were willing to work for their results.

Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for many of the athletes with the most talent. Plenty of athletes knew that they were talented and quite honestly more gifted than most.   As a result, they didn’t work as hard and with as much focus as they could have.  They left a lot on the table. While that worked in the early years of their careers it failed them miserably when they got to the big stage where they had to up their game and perform against the best. They lacked the discipline and focus they needed to achieve at the next level.

We see the same thing happen in the office.  It’s the sales person or marketing genius that does just enough to get by.  They don’t make that extra phone call to that potential prospect or go the extra mile to WOW potential customers.   As a result, organizations get stuck paying for top dollar talent with mediocre results.  This is hard on the organization and especially hard on the management and support staff that are chronically filling in for your 1st round draft choice when it should be the other way around.

When making your hiring decision between the two kinds of people I have described above you need to dig for more.  You need to know what kind of work ethic this person has.  You need to know what they do when things are tough.  You want to know what they believe about themselves and their ability to succeed.  You want to know what they are made of deep down.

So when you make your next hire ask yourself a couple critical questions.  Do you know what they are made of?  Will this person be willing to learn and work hard or do they know it all already? Will they be a team player and a culture fit for your organization? Ultimately you’re going to have to make the call.  The bottom line is don’t get blinded by the talent only to be disappointed by your star employees lack of work ethic and commitment to take your team to the next level.