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Going for Gold

August 1, 2012

The Olympics are a fantastic arena to observe what Excellence looks like, but just as importantly to remind ourselves about the price that has to be paid by anyone that aspires to achieve it.

Today, the GB team got their first team gold medal in the women’s rowing pairs with Helen Glover and Heather Stanning showing their cool confidence right from the off. Their partnership is remarkable, – Helen only took up rowing four years ago and they have been rowing together for merely two years. One story I heard was that they were paired up as the least successful members of the squad – an afterthought, perhaps, or clutching at straws? Well, today’s evidence proves it was an inspired decision. It just goes to show what the right combination of talents, with the right coaching of course, can achieve.

The consistent story behind all the medal winners is their dedication to the development of their talents.  As neuroscientist Daniel Levitan has researched, “it comes down to that in order to be a world-class expert in anything, be it audiology, drama, music, art, gymnastics, whatever, one needs to have a minimum of 10,000 hours of practice.” This of course explains why it is that nations which identify and then hot-house promising youngsters do so well. I’m thinking here of the Chinese divers that our UK medal-hopeful, Tom Daley, finds such formidable competition; whilst he is fitting in his school studies with his four hours a day training, the impression is that his Chinese opponents simply practice diving all day.

But surely it’s not just down to natural aptitude and hard work? In TPC our formula for producing Excellence is that it takes a combination of Systems plus Passion. The training and coaching fits on the Systems side of this equation, but the energy to keep going definitely fits on the Passion side! For every winner there are many losers who have to find the will to get back on the treadmill in search of their moment of glory. The vast majority will never make it and the ones that do are able to remain undaunted by ‘failure‘ on the way. They say that success breeds success, but what about failure? Is this resilience a quality that can be learned and developed, or is it something you are born with?

Good luck to all the Olympic athletes, successful or otherwise. We wish you the fortitude to stick with your search for Excellence. It’s inspiring to us all.

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