The summer Olympics, which just ended, reminded me of a personal experience during the 2001 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. Since this was in our hometown, my wife and I really wanted to go to an Olympic event, but we didn’t have a lot of money. Tickets for medal rounds of any event were very expensive, so we purchased tickets to go see the men’s figure skating event as it was one of the more affordable tickets. Obviously my wife won the debate about which event to go see! During this preliminary round, we were able to watch about 24 skaters from different countries. Some skaters had fantastic routines and it was easy to see who would be the finals. Their ability and skill were noticeably better than others, even to the untrained eye. While this event was not my first choice to see, I did gain a greater appreciation for the talents of others, especially since I knew I couldn’t skate very well. It made me think about how much we truly rely on others’ skills, talents, and expertise to accomplish tasks and especially to make good things become great.
During the event, there was one particular competitor who was not as strong of a skater in comparison to his competition. Not too far into his routine, he did his first jump and fell to the ice. You could hear the crowd gasp as he went down. The skater got up and continued his routine, only to fall again a few moments later. The noise from the crowd conveyed their sympathy for this man. Yet again he arose to continue his routine but fell again and again. At this time, the crowd was almost silent. Everyone felt so bad for this person who had trained, practiced, and dedicated so much of his time and energy, only to have a night of almost utter disaster. When the skater slowly arose from this final fall, his body language was as easy to read as an elementary school book. He was ready to quit. I think the entire crowd was reading his mind as if he were saying, “I can’t go on. This is embarrassing and I should just quit.” At that very moment, the crowd began to clap and cheer to encourage and motivate the skater to complete the routine. It was a unified effort and you could literally feel the ‘human electricity’ in the arena. There is no doubt in my mind that the skater felt the energy and was inspired to go on. He finished his routine, without any more falls and showed the crowd that he was an Olympic athlete who pushes through to the end, no matter what!
The moral of this story is individually we might have a great talent or skill that makes us the top performer in our department at work, or in this story, the best in our country, but we can’t make it alone. Not only do we need the help of others, but the help needs to be a unified effort. If we can increase the level of unity and teamwork in our organizations, there is no doubt we can improve the commitment and resolve to accomplish great things as teams. From the sidelines we can inspire others to keep going, overcome the obstacles, and persevere until they reach their goals.