Take a moment to picture a champion in your field, a person who achieves success often. See this champion doing something you admire: now see this champion smiling, shaking hands….
What do you see? I’ve always seen confidence, talent (not sure how one sees this, but it’s a feeling I get), good strong posture, and a twinkle in the champion’s eye – as if this champion knows a secret.
Now… here’s an important question – Was it you that you saw? Do you see yourself as a champion?
Maybe you saw a generic person – no one in particular – that’s fine — but could it have been you? (This is possibly a very “Canadian” way to picture success considering how we tend to think of who our “heroes” and role models are. ie – we tend to use composites of people and traits). So. Do you posses the characteristics that you saw? Do you hope to? Are you working on them?
Here is a telling follow-up question, especially if you are a woman — if it wasn’t you – did you picture a woman?
It’s not easy to be that bold, but ego is not arrogance.
When I first started thinking about actually going to Olympics – when I pictured an Olympian, in my mind I saw a male swimmer. He was sort of a perfect specimen – tall, broad-shouldered-narrow-waisted, hairless (?ha!), and almost zero fat on his body. I am none of these things so how could I become an Olympian? Read on…
In many different ways I’ve written about being open to new ideas and change. In my book I shared a story about snowboarding through a gladed run. This particular story spoke of the importance of looking and moving to the spaces around the problems and not looking at the problems themselves. If you want to hit the trees, I concluded – look at the trees. If you want to ‘hit’ the fresh powder, well then …(For that full story click here, but I’ll also put a link at the end of this message.)
Previous to this post, I’ve also written about the value of being young and naïve vs. well seasoned and experienced. I have found that it’s not uncommon for experience to sometimes act as a burden when it comes to problem solving. When we think we know it all we start to become those who know less and less. At some point, because of our experiences, we inadvertently become closed off to challenge of new or changing ideas. That’s when we hear from others, or think to ourselves, “I’ve been doing it this way for X number of years – why would I / should I change?” Our well-honed routines provide us with the comfort that we know what we are doing but they put us at risk for becoming less curious about what we could be doing differently.
So, I come back to my opening remark; do you look for solutions to your problems, or do you find yourself finding problems in your solutions?
This isn’t the type of message where I offer an easy fix-all solution. There isn’t one. It is simply a question that I ask of myself, and I am suggesting that you ask it of yourself. I believe that simply this act of self-reflection will lead you to do a bit of both, which is, in my humble opinion the right way to go. In order to perform at any efficient level you must be looking for solutions to problems but you also must have a sense of what problems might arise.
Having an idea that a problem might present itself is much different than assuming that a problem will present itself. The former allows you to anticipate change and challenge; the later leaves you unwilling to change at all.
Before I sign-off – another self-reflective question; (and it’s one of my favourites!) In conversation do you listen, or do you wait to talk? !
Previous posts on being open to new ideas.
Believing that we can achieve success and big, seemingly infinite, goals can seem impossible for us “normal*” people. For the likes of Super Hero Buzz Lightyear, who will readily leap “To INFINITY and Beyond!!!” it’s a breeze. How do they do that?!
This weekend I spoke at a TedX event at the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus. I titled my presentation “What Super Heroes Don’t Tell You” and had a lot of fun delivering my message.
I used a few big-event examples from my rowing career that tended to push my ego to believing that I was special. It’s easy to think that crossing an Olympic finish line in 1st place can make a person believe in their own Super Hero status! But almost invariably for me, something happened immediately after each of my big achievements that served to remind me to put my feet back on the ground. I was just a normal person who was doing some pretty special things; not a special person, and certainly not a super hero.
Eventually I figured it out. Read on…
I often cite a particular Ernie and Bert skit as one of my favourite examples of Art Imitating Life. I’ve wanted to write about it for a while – but I’ve found it tough figuring out how to approach it. If I’m not careful it will look like I’m suggesting that people can be ungrateful for what they receive – but that’s not what I see as the nugget in the discussion between these two Sesame Street icons. It’s more about the importance of knowing what it is that you want so as to avoid a sense of entitlement that you deserve everything that is available.
In the skit, Ernie has two pieces of pie. He’s going to give one to Bert, but first, he takes one for himself. The two pieces aren’t the same size, one is much bigger than the other and Ernie takes the bigger one. Bert is surprised by this and suggests that Ernie has made a selfish decision. The reason he provides for why he thinks so gets right to the heart of dangerous side of a blind pursuit of more.
I believe in more. I talk and write about it a lot. I firmly believe that in the presence of an ambition to achieve something there is always more that I can try, learn and do. The pursuit of more can be limitless. But it gets tricky if you try to apply this philosophy of more to things that you want to get (versus want to do,) and trickier still if you don’t know exactly what you want or why you want it.
Knowing what you want is the best way to be happy when you get it. Knowing why you want it provides you with some perspective when you achieve it and—as importantly—in case you don’t. It is the why you want something that helps you reassess, realign and if you choose – try again. Read on…
Marnie McBean holds three gold medals and a bronze medal from Olympic rowing competitions. She and her rowing partner, Kathleen Heddle, are Canada’s most successful Summer Olympic athletes.
She has been a specialist in Olympic Athlete Preparation, mentoring Canadian Olympic Teams between 2006 - 2014 and continues to work as a speaker, mentor and author.
She is an Officer of the Order of Canada, has a degree in Honors Kinesiology from the University of Western Ontario as well as three honorary doctorates. She is a member of Canada’s Sport Hall of Fame and an ambassador for Right to Play, Fast and Female, and Plan Canada’s Because I am a Girl initiative. She lives in Toronto.
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