Thursday, February 18, 2010

Are you ready for your Olympic “moment of truth?”

Sometimes, there is a very fine line between achieving to the highest standards you’ve set for yourself and crashing in defeat.

I have been captivated by this concept throughout the XXI Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. These athletes have spent on average 30,000 hours over 4-8 years (or maybe even decades) learning the miniscule details of their craft, conditioning their bodies and minds for the rigors of performing on an international stage, and creating and successfully executing a winning plan.

Yet even with their best-laid strategies and hard work, it all comes down to executing their very best effort at one precise moment in time. Time and again I’ve heard former Olympians comment during TV interviews that it doesn’t matter how well you’ve done on the circuit or how many world championships you won in the past. It is how you execute on that day when you take to the ice, head out the gate, or push to the finish line that makes all the difference. These Olympians certainly know that right beside the thrill of victory can be the agony of defeat.

-- Fifty yards from the finish line your ski hits a rut or a soft patch of snow and you come careening head-long down the hill at 70 miles an hour to land in a heap at the goal line.

-- Memories of nailing that quad/triple jump in hundreds of practice sessions evaporate as you launch skyward from the ice in an adrenaline rush slightly off center and end up on your backside as the music plays on.

--Ready to take your place on the medal stand only to have a competitor/colleague make one miscalculation, cut you off and send you crashing into the wall or gate — your Olympic moment ended.

In school communications, we also have those “moments of truth” that test our capacity and our character as individuals and professionals. We may be very good at our craft and are seen as successful and accomplished in what we do. But that gets tested to the limit when we are in the white hot spotlight of a high profile situation. Our educational organizations and our colleagues are counting on us — we are counting on ourselves — to muster every tool, trick, and technique we can to achieve success in the public eye.

Here are a few reflections on making it matter in the moment of truth:

Sweat the small stuff so you’re ready for the big stuff!
Be prepared and practice scenarios and “what ifs” so you’re ready when you get the call. Olympians teach us that achieving excellence isn’t an overnight activity and that luck has very little to do with it. You are what you do and you achieve what you practice. A gold medal is not a lottery ticket. It’s a diploma tenaciously earned from the school of hard knocks!

Get your head in the game!
Olympians (and other people operating at high professional levels for that matter) have one common characteristic that separates them from the pack: the ability to focus with laser-like precision all of their experience and expertise to succeed when it really counts. Gold medalists are able to block out the clutter and noise, keep their head when all others are losing it, dominate their fears, and push back against uncertainty and anxiety. Can you be the “Go To” person that everyone relies on when all hell is breaking loose? That will put you on the podium.

Be resilient and persevere!
Defeat is a lesson, not a failure. Some of the most endearing images from these Olympics are from athletes who labor tireless with little recognition to savor that one moment when they did their personal best for all of the world to see. The test of your character is the comeback you make from injuries and disappointments (especially when they are the result of your own mistakes or miscalculations). In that moment of truth you prove to yourself what you are truly made of. In this economy, how you rebound from a job loss may indeed be your Olympic moment.

Ever feel like one day you’re the hockey goalie blocking shots at your district and the next you’re an ice dancer trying to demonstrate the art and style of educational achievement?

Versatility is our stock in trade. School communication professionals are unique in the education world. We cut across all disciplines from finance to facilities; technology to teaching. Other than the superintendent, we are the one person in the organization that needs to be at least nominally proficient in everything about education. What we do every day is like competing in a decathlon that combines skating, skiing, jumping, sliding, and even curling. Now that would be a gold medal performance worthy of the XXII Winter Olympics!


Trinette said...

Wonderful post Tom, right on the mark as usual. Really helps put it all in perspective.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Tom, and a promising new blog! On a related note, I bet you're aware of this "Science of the Winter Olypmic Games" Web resource that Jack O'Connell issued a press relase on last week:
-Brian Taylor, managing editor, CSBA