We Can Learn from Olympic Champions
Not only was I an Olympic swimming champion (4 gold,
1 silver), but I am also a devoted Olympic Games fan. When I watch
380 pound professional football players or seven foot tall
basketball players, I am understandably in awe of their massive
physiology, but to be honest, I have a hard time relating to them.
When I watch the young men and women who represent their countries
at the Olympic Games, however, it is their “ordinariness” that
shines through. We watch as little boys and girls with the help of
their moms and dads, perform extraordinary feats of athletic
achievement, and we think, “If they can do it, so can I!”
The Olympic Motto, “Citius, Altius, Fortius” is Latin for “Swifter,
Higher, Stronger.” It does not say “Swiftest, Highest, Strongest”
because the founder of the Modern Olympic Games, Baron Pierre de
Coubertin, wanted to use sport as a means to improve society and
make people better. He was less interested in honoring the excellent
than he was in encouraging the devoted.
When I address my keynote audiences, I want each person in the room
to feel like they are representing their country on an international
scale, and I also want teach them how they can accomplish their own
personal and professional goals, regardless spite of what others
around them are capable of. That’s one of the many reason reasons my
“Gold Medal Process” speech has been so well received over the
As I walk my audience through my “Gold Medal Process” (How to see
your dreams come true) I share entertaining stories from Olympic
history that articulate the steps champions in all walks of life use
to see their personal dreams become reality. I have found that my
audiences react better to anecdotes and parables than to lectures
An added bonus about my Olympic story-telling is that my anecdotes
(taken from a variety of Olympic examples) are constantly being
updated with each new edition of the Olympic Games. When I talk
about overcoming obstacles for example, I can replace the story of
Greg Louganis hitting his head on the diving board with the story
about how Kerry Strug landed her vault on a twisted ankle, or how
Apollo Anton Ono bounced back from a crash, to put his skate across
the finish line.
I realized early on in my career, that there is not much value in
society at large for being able to swim quickly while on your back.
But if my experience can shed light on how to make a personal dream
more accessible and achievable, then I will have made a significant
contribution to the people who have come to hear me speak.
An added bonus to having an Olympians address your meeting is the
inherent power of what I call the “Olympic hardware.” Whenever time
allows for it, I like to pose for pictures with members of my
audience, where I can put a medal around their neck or place an
Olympic torch in their hand, or put an Olympic pin on their lapel.
The power of these items is truly remarkable as it seems to double
their excitement and enthusiasm in a matter of moments.
You can purchase that same thrill from wearing a Super Bowl ring I
suppose, but you’ll probably have to pay a lot more for a
professional athlete than one who came out of the “amateur ranks” of
sport. Can you relate to that?
Naber is a five time Olympic medal winner (swimming, 1976), a
network television sports announcer, and lecturer on a variety of
topics including teamwork, innovation and ethical achievement. He is
the author of Awaken the Olympian Within and Eureka, How
Innovation Changes the Olympics and Everything Else.
Copyright © 2010 John Naber. All Rights Reserved.
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