I will admit, I am currently a Winter Olympics junkie. I know, I jump on the bandwagon of watching sports that I only really care about once every four years, but I love watching people do things remarkably well. These athletes are committed, driven even, to the sacrifice it takes to make an Olympic team. I read the following story this week over Olympic coverage; and it has been my favorite story of these games: How freeskier Elizabeth Swaney made it to the Olympics with a very simple halfpipe run.
There are three big lessons that I think we can all take away from Swaney’s Olympic appearance. Three lessons from someone who, ultimately had a dream, but never had a chance to win.
Lesson One: The Loophole.
My first thought was — “she found a loophole.” She found a small field, a limited number of competitors, and took every advantage she could. Maybe you also see Swaney’s Olympic appearance as a loophole oversight, but the more I think about it, I see it as someone who found a way to make her dream of becoming an Olympic athlete come true. Swaney found an event she could commit to, and found a way to run the course with the needed requirements. If you think anyone could do this, I challenge you to drop into a half pipe over 64 feet wide and 22 feet from top to bottom and see how you fair. There is still a great deal of commitment to doing what she did. Sure, Swaney never threw a big trick, never did anything amazing compared to the other athletes, but she did exactly what she needed to do over to make her Olympic dream come true.
Lesson Two: The Commitment.
The second key to her appearance was focus. Swaney made a multiple year commitment to attending every halfpipe event possible (that had less than 30 people competing). She went out and ran the courses time after time over the course of two or three years. She never won…but she did what was needed- to complete each run without falling. This is something every Olympian commits to doing…a dream that can only be achieved every four years. An Olympian’s “Super Bowl” that happens once every 1,460 days. Whether the Olympics, or other aspects of our lives, success is achieved by making commitment over a long period of time. This applies to everything we do. People do not fail for the lack of big dreams, they fail because they are not willing to commit, and stay focused, over a long period of time. We are often not willing to sacrifice time and play the long game. We want success, but we do not always want to keep focus on the amount of time it takes over the course of years (at times) to achieve this success.
Lesson Three: Attention to the Details.
The final lesson I took from this story, was Swaney’s commitment to the process; her commitment to doing the small things remarkably well over the course of time. She could have easily skipped a event here and there, she could have submitted to the critics, she could have lost focus and fallen a time or two during her runs. She did none of these. Just think what could happen for each of us if we commit every day to live with the discipline of doing the small things well. Each decision, each jump was important, she never stumbled because her focus wasn’t on trying to throw a mesmerizing stunt, it was on doing the little things well. Swaney completed the course each time by doing just what was needed to keep her going, to keep her standing., to keep her dream alive.
Call it a loophole, call it a farce, call it what you want. Swaney found a way, stayed focused over a long period of time, and did the small things remarkably during a time period in order to pursue her goals. What would happen if we all did this — committed to achieving our dreams and then had the patience to focus on doing the small things remarkably well for a long period of time? What could our lives look like…what could we achieve?
Keep learning; keep growing; keep sharing!