Thoughts on Leadership: Going for the Gold

By: Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me at home, starting Monday with my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday I attended the Top 1% Intero event in Sonoma, California and spent the rest of the week meeting with teams across the globe and holding Q2 reviews.

These past two weeks, there was a momentous event happening every day: the Olympics. I love the Olympics because it brings the best of the best together and showcases their incredible hard work and skill. As Entrepreneur Jim Rohn once said, “Don’t join an easy crowd; you won’t grow. Go where the expectations and the demands to perform are high.”

There is no exhibit of high performance greater than the Olympics, and for today’s post, I’d like to share some amazing stories that emerged from these epic games.

Allyson Felix, Track and Field, Team USA

After her stunning wins in Tokyo, where she claimed her 10th and 11th Olympic medals, Felix is now the most decorated U.S. Olympic track athlete ever. She won gold in the 4×400 meter relay and took bronze in the individual 400-meter race. After her extraordinary appearances in Tokyo, Felix also now holds the record for the most Olympic medals for a female track and field athlete. After the Olympics, Felix had a message for those who doubted her ability to make the 2020 team: “This one is very different, and it’s very special,” she said, referring to the games. “And it took a lot to get here.”

Lydia Jacoby, Gold Medalist, Swimming, Team USA

Seventeen-year-old Lydia Jacoby’s fight for the gold (she won the 100-meter breaststroke) is the ultimate story of perseverance over everything. The first Alaskan swimmer to win Olympic gold, her story has garnered attention because there’s only one Olympic-sized pool in Alaska, a state measuring 663,268 square miles. The pool is located at Bartlett High in Anchorage, and through GoFundMe, the swimming program was able to raise enough money to buy starting blocks for Olympic training. After her win Jacoby said, “A lot of big-name swimmers come from big, powerhouse clubs. Me coming from a small club, in a state with such a small population, really shows everyone that you can do it no matter where you’re from.”

Kaleigh Gilchrist, Gold Medalist, Water Polo, Team USA

Kaleigh Gilchrist was born just a stone’s throw from our HSF Affiliates Irvine HQ in Newport Beach, California. Her trip to Tokyo was especially meaningful as her father, Sandy Gilchrist, swam for Canada during the 1964 Olympics, also held in Tokyo. When Kaleigh hopped on a flight to Japan this summer, she was after her second gold medal with the U.S. Olympic Women’s Water Polo Team. (She won gold with the team in 2016.) However, the road to Tokyo was not so smoothly paved. In 2019, after celebrating her team’s World Championship victory in Gwangju, South Korea, she was severely injured when a nightclub balcony collapsed. She had surgery on her left leg, returned to Southern California in a wheelchair, and participated in grueling rehab to recover. But Gilchrist was determined. She dubbed her journey toward a comeback the “Mamba Mission” after chatting with Kobe Bryant during her recovery, and fully embraced Bryant’s famous Mamba Mentality. (The Mamba Mentality is about attacking what’s in front of you with passion and purpose, and without fear.) This mindset shift worked. By the time the 2020 Olympics were rescheduled, she was ready to compete. The rest, as they say, is history.

So, what’s the message? These are just a few outstanding stories; there are many, many, many more that emerged from Tokyo. However, when we watched the Olympics these past two weeks, we only saw the glory moments, the triumphant celebrations, the display of medals and the pure joy of Olympic champions. What we didn’t see was the struggle, the adversity, the sweat, the defeat and the determination that went into those few moments of greatness. Track star Usain Bolt, for instance, who claimed 8 gold medals over the course of three Olympic games, only ran for less than 115 seconds in total. Yet, to compete at the ultimate level during those 115 seconds, he trained for his entire life. We only see the highlight reel; there’s a lot of hard work that goes into going for the gold.

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