The Thrill of Victory

Last week I introduced John Naber’s Gold Medal Process. John won four gold medals and one silver medal as a swimmer in the 1976 Olympics. The first four steps of his process are The Dream, Faith and Attitude, a Concrete Goal, and Strategy and Plan.

Who can forget the voice of Jim McKay, host of ABC’s host of Wide World of Sports as he said, “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport! The thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat! The human drama of athletic competition. This is ABC’s Wide World of Sports!”

The audio was accompanied by quick scenes of individual and team victories and the clip of Vinko Bogataj, the ski jumper, losing control near the end of a ski ramp, tumbling and bouncing, crashing into a fence near startled spectators. It was the Agony of Defeat for millions to see each week.

John’s first four steps in his process are internal, requiring thought and planning. The final four are external; visible to others. And, as we witnessed every Saturday afternoon, the agony of defeat was not what was supposed to happen.

The fifth step is Short Term Progress. This is where activity is not just measured but reported.

It’s the accountability step, where individuals are being held to account versus the Concrete Goal. It also verifies if the Strategy and Plan are sound.

I’ve discovered that in business and in life, those willing to be held accountable are the individuals that make a difference.

Those who will hold themselves accountable soon surface as leaders, people worth hiring, promoting and retaining.

The sixth step is Hard Work. John missed drinking Mug Root beer after living in Germany as a young man. Returning to the USA, he said that after his third bottle, he noticed four little words on the bottle cap: “No Deposit, No Return.”

Hard Work still matters but it is now become incumbent on leaders in business to not just define what “Hard Work” is but they must demonstrate it constantly, leading by example.

Why? The workplace is filled with Disengaged Employees, many who feel they are entitled to the gold but don’t understand it has to be earned the old fashioned way: Hard Work.

The seventh step is Will Power. When obstacles surface, what happens? Most people give up. Not John, who found himself swimming hour after hour, for five to six hours a day, eleven months a year, for four long years, in his quest for Olympic Gold.

Paul Miller, as President of Hills Bros. Coffee, a one hundred year old company in San Francisco, was faced with the inability of meeting an upcoming payroll. He wasn’t the owner, but he was the leader. Paul stepped up and got a second mortgage on a cabin he had inherited from his parents.

This single example of Will Power not only kept the doors open and preserved hundreds of jobs, but endeared him to the employees to this day.

The final step is Courage, demonstrated as Performance under Pressure, is when it all comes together for success. For John, it was winning those medals in front of thousands of people in the stands with an audience of millions on television and radio.

For a business leader it might be presenting in front of employees; a key client, a business partner or perhaps a more intimate setting when a subordinate needs to be told it is time to move on to another opportunity outside the company.

Not everyone can earn can make the Olympic Team, and many of those don’t receive a medal. But John’s Gold Medal Process applies to every individual and every team that wants to achieve whatever the Dream is that they have.

John closes each of his talks with a simple quote: “The magic of an Olympic Gold Medal is in its ability to inspire others.” Isn’t that the role of every leader?

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