By Gino Blefari
This week my travels find me in Irvine, CA at our HSF Affiliates headquarters for alignment sessions and meetings with the team. As we prepare for our upcoming Sales Convention in San Antonio, I can’t help but catch a bit of the Olympics buzz going on across the country as I watch world-class athletes get ready to race. The Olympic competitors are all shining examples of leaders—hard working, focused, motivated and committed to a single Wildly Important Goal: Winning the gold.
Some Olympians will leave Pyeongchang, South Korea victorious, with a brand-new gold medal swinging around their necks; others may emerge from the games empty-handed or, like U.S. skier Lindsey Vonn, may be returning with a medal … just not the one they’d hoped for and worked incessantly to receive.
Vonn ended her Olympic career Wednesday after she disqualified for the slalom stage of the women’s combined and overall, earned one medal: A bronze in the downhill.
“I’ve been injured so many times that the fact I’m even here is a victory in itself,” she told reporters after the race. “As a racer, as a person, I have to remember that as well because I do want to win and I’m usually not satisfied with a bronze. In this situation, I think I can be very happy with what I’ve accomplished.”
Vonn’s optimism is inspiring and a powerful lesson in humility and grace. The triumphs, the gold medals, the accolades—all that is great and motivating—but it isn’t really how we grow, learn and improve. In order to get better, we must face friction, miss a few turns, stumble on the track. In order to reach a higher level of performance, we must first examine and understand why we were miring in the low.
For Vonn, this is expected to be her last Olympics race but for us, the onlookers and fans, we can take her final underwhelming Olympics stint as an example of how to not only lose with dignity but also how to take those losses and turn them into opportunities for growth.
So, what’s the message? Lose the battle, win the war, I always say. And, sometimes victory isn’t what you thought it was. Sometimes, it’s far grander than a single medal or a one-time win. Even if you leave a race in second, third or last place, know every instance that knocks you down is a chance to pick yourself back up and grow even stronger from the tough experience. Just like the United States Women’s Hockey Team, which defeated four-time-running Olympic-champion Canada last night in a shootout victory to claim the gold medal.
Respond to Thoughts on Leadership: How to Lose, How to Win