Be Extraordinary – Western Alumni Gazette – A chat with Marnie

A chat with Marnie about Performance and Winning

by Jason Winders, MES’16, PhD’16 | October 13, 2017

One of the most decorated athletes in Canadian history – most notably as a three-time Olympic gold medalist – Marnie McBean, BA’97, LLD’03, shares what she learned from a life on the water at Western and beyond.

My ultimate thing was not to win, but to get better. Getting better all the time meant attention to detail, to learning, to figuring things out. And all that – that attention to things – took care of winning.

I was not a star athlete. I always made teams. But I was never the star. I was not a scorer or a playmaker. I was a grinder who moved things along. But I have come to understand that everyone is excellent at something; it is the lucky few who find what that is.

I had great water feel. I wasn’t a great rower at the beginning, but somebody saw something about me on the water. And that was me – it was being on the water, how rowing boats moved, knowing how a team moved together. I loved it from the first day.

Get a feel for your water. I cannot hit a three-pointer. I don’t have that kind of coordination. But I have water feel.

When you find that thing you are great at, it is easy to put time into it. It will always feel like a choice. It will always feel like you are choosing to be more. Continue reading

Rookie, Established or Veteran – Seeing Your Self as a Champion Takes Practice

Focusing on task, improving technique and increasing strength are what keeps us in the up-curve of our careers.

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? Continue reading

Hey Canada – Are We As Good As We Think We Are?

UHelping Others - All Hands Insing the US election as a High Performance … and Higher Values reminder.

In the shadow of the US presidential election I find it nearly impossible to miss the “this could never happen here” chatter. Canadians believe in human rights and dignity for all. Canada is diverse, inclusive, kind.

Well – blah blah blah. I’m not convinced that this reputation totally applies to Canada any more. I think that we have been all of the things– I’m just not sure that we still are. And if we are – I think we are very close to not being as inclusive and kind for much longer.

Why? We have been taking “who we are” for granted for a long time. Being the kind, generous population that we think we are requires hard work, dedication and, likely requires that we disrupt our personal routine: I wonder if we haven’t all gotten a little lazy.

 

In my book, The Power of More – How Small Steps Help You Achieve Big Goals – I wrote about the possible disadvantage of being naturally talented. It is my experience if early results come easily one runs the risk of not learning how to be tough and dedicated as a career progresses.

Natural talent can help you to be good, but only thorough and constant preparation will give you the confidence to be great—on demand. For the power of more to work, you have to want to do more on the bad days as much as you want it on the great days—even if the attempt isn’t nearly as much fun on bad days and you risk failing. Being tough is a (badge) that you earn as you train. (And like everything else) you lose (that badge) as soon as you stop being tough.

I don’t think that we have any right to take who we once were – who we still hope to be – for granted anymore. I’m not so sure that we’re all working at it anymore and we all need to be working at it all the time.

It’s not a stretch to assume that (Rob) Ford Nation, which was just recently the majority in Toronto and still has a significant presence, would be firmly behind Donald Trump and all of his populist messaging. I don’t think that this group is some sort of anomaly that exists only around Toronto and can’t be found throughout our great nation. And I think we are drinking the same Kool-Aide that all the American pollsters were drinking if we think that a Trump-like character on a Canadian ballot couldn’t possibly draw out the lazy, NIMBY worst of us.

To be clear I too am one of the ‘we’re better than them’ preachers on the values and virtues of being Canadian. As a nation we had a natural talent to be – and so we were — clean, green, kind and generous. I love thinking that we shun bigotry and racism, that we are open to diversity of faith, sexuality and abilities. I am proud to think that Canadians care for the quality of our environment for this generation and every generation to come. …. but are we actually doing these things today. Am I? Are you? I’m not certain that this is how other nations see us anymore.

Having the potential to be kind, to be a defender of others’ safety, or to be a protector of human rights to doesn’t mean that you are. Only actually stepping up and stepping in makes you so. The sort of kindness and generosity that we believe Canadians represent is more than once-off gestures. Increasingly many expect ‘others’ to do the social conscious heavy lifting. Having advocated for others long ago doesn’t mean that you are their advocate today. Because you voted once does not make you a voter today. Every day we need to care, act, and speak up.

As Canadians we are incredibly fortunate that as a collective – we have a reputation for being naturally kind and inclusive. This is the core of why we have the confidence to believe that this is a great nation. We cannot take what makes it great for granted.

Let’s do more than think that this couldn’t happen in Canada, let’s make certain that it doesn’t. Let’s re-commit to being dedicated to living and leading by the values that we think we have – in the moments when it’s easy to do and in the moments when it’s not so easy to do.

It will be the constant little gestures; supporting comments and inclusions that will continue to define us. How people give and support changes as we ourselves change; some have time, some have money. Some have both and some have neither, but we all have a voice. Doing nothing- saying nothing, when you believe that human rights, dignity and decency are something, paves the way for populist messaging to take a serious hold.

We had hoped that they would choose to be “With Her”; it’s a real shame that enough of them didn’t. What are we Canadians to do about that? We can choose to be with and for each other. I’m with you.

 

“God” Used to be a Rower – discussing Wind, Racing and the Delays in Rio

Aside

Middle of the course awry. Wind and waves are creating havoc on the Olympic Rowing Regatta

Middle of the course awry. Wind and waves are creating havoc on the Olympic Rowing Regatta

Rowers have joked in the past that God must be a rower. More often than not, Olympic Rowing conditions have been consistently excellent.

There have been short delays here or there but it’s been a long time since an Olympic regatta has been so wind effected. And – I think the last time one was SO disrupted it wasn’t even the Rowing regatta – it was the Canoe Kayak regatta in Sydney (2000). The two sports share a venue; Rowing is always week one and Canoe/Kayak is week two.

I’ll never forget watching the Canadian Flag Bearer, Caroline Brunet, and gold-medal favourite – be forced to race her K1-500m final in conditions that seemed to fit the white-water paddlers far more than the sprint/flat water paddlers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glUKGWFJKJA

People were furious, why wouldn’t that international federation and the IOC delay until conditions improved? They couldn’t – the Closing Ceremony would start in a few hours; all sports had to be completed.

I believe FISA, the international rowing federation, took a long look at that situation and made a decision to give rowing some flexibility if that were to happen in (their) week one.

Rowing used to begin on Sunday – day 3 of the Olympics – and the regatta finished on Sunday with Canoe Kayak beginning the next day. That gave rowing no ‘wiggle’ room to reschedule. FISA changed that. Now the Olympic Rowing Regatta begins on day 2 – the morning after the Opening Ceremony – and should be completed on the Saturday. This gives the venue a day to convert from rowing to canoe/kayak, but also it gives FISA a chance to find best conditions.

 

I would suppose that as far as FISA and their Fairness Committee are concerned – this week is a nightmare. Delays are hard on everyone. Athletes have been trying to peak perfectly for a moment in time for years, friends families and fans have spent a lot of money are trying to make sure they’ve the right ticket on the right day, TV networks are trying to juggle how to show everyone everything and FISA needs to figure out how to keep racing fair. (I’ve heard that on-line ticket systems are not co operating well with ticket exchanges. I can only imagine the exhaustion and stress that loved-ones are going through as they pass the “off” days trying to change their tickets (regatta and sometimes airline tickets and hotel bookings too) to the next right one.

I know that FISA study weather patterns – daily and long range – and I wouldn’t be surprised if they have found themselves between a rock and hard place. FISA isn’t responsible for the weather – the best they can do is stay as connected to the expert weather forecasters and look for windows of opportunities. (I have to admit – I often joke the weather forecasters and pollsters seem to be the only people who keep their jobs even though their predictions are so often way off).

Saturday morning’s conditions were terrible – but the week at a glance wouldn’t have given FISA much hope for consistent improvement. Should they have postponed the first day? I read on Sunday, and FISA would have known, that Wednesday and Thursday were supposed to be really bad. (Wednesday has in fact started off with a postponement.) So what were they to do? There are only so many days they can push forward to.

Heats are important, but in light of the continued bad weather – I’m glad that FISA didn’t delay into precious blocks of better racing weather. All other rounds are knock-out rounds and FISA needs to protect those.

The new schedule with 4 days of finals also gives FISA increased flexibility. This new Olympic and World Championship race schedule sets up relatively short days. So even when they merged 2 days on Monday– it was just a 5-hour schedule. FISA can use the afternoons and, worst case-scenario they have Sunday as a reserve day.

Being forced to use Sunday would be FISA’s and the IOC’s worst-case scenario. For the athletes, worst-case scenario would be racing for their Olympic dreams in white-caps, cross winds and/or unfair lanes.

No one dreams that.