Grains of Rice and Jelly Beans

white-riceOften when I’m speaking to groups about goal achieving I talk about preparation. I like to think that the process of preparation is like filling a cup with grains of rice. For time you spend focusing on work/training/school/relationships you get to put a grain of rice in the cup. The cup represents your goal, and the grains of rice are all the steps that you need to take to achieve it. Every time you are open to new ideas, change, challenge and co-operation you get to put another grain of rice in the cup.

There is a reason that starting is the hardest part of almost any task/goal. In the beginning  we have an obviously empty cup and the first grains of rice that we intend to put in look hopeless small. Goals don’t have to be huge; they can be small cups – or large buckets, even the size of your rice grains will differ – some seem minute and others massive. But there is tremendous value to each grain; added together- all your work adds up to something of value. As the grains of rice fill the cup you feel more and more ready; this is, I believe, the best way to deal with stress.

Attendance alone doesn’t earn a grain of rice – you have to be present; giving 100% of what you’ve got to give and genuinely listening – not waiting to talk – which is something I’ll admit that I can struggle with. When you are stubborn, resistant to new ideas or in attendance-only-mode grains of rice are removed from the cup. Everyone will have a few of those, but it’s certainly a pile we need to keep to a minimum!

Today I saw this video that uses 28,835 jelly beans to demonstrate how all of our ‘single days’ add up. When the video isolates one single bean to illustrate “your first day”  my mind jumped to the cup-filling-with-rice/preparation concept. Beside all the other beans that one yellow jelly bean looked so… small – as if it could never matter; the idea of it ever becoming the pile – with all its impact – seems unfathomable. But like the grains of rice… they add up too. As you work to achieve your goals, your efforts big and small have value.

Every step you take matters, first ones just as much as last ones.

Nice to know vs Need to know: The important bits and pieces

2013- athletes get to be tourists. 2014 athletes will be athletes

2013- athletes get to be tourists. 2014 athletes will be ‘working’

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A few years ago, Dr. Robert Thirsk, a Canadian astronaut, spoke at an Olympic Excellence Series meeting. He told us that before he went up on the Space Shuttle Columbia he needed to master over 20 simulators that represented bits and pieces of a single task that he had to perform in space. None of them, he said, could simulate totally what it would be like to perform his task in the weightless environment of space. When the time came, it was his ability to combine the variety of his experiences and training that made him effective in space. I was struck by how similar his experience is to an athlete’s preparation for an Olympics. There is no one thing that you can do to prepare for competition inside the Olympic bubble but you still need to be familiar with and master as many bits and pieces that you can.

I have written and erased this message many times … it wasn’t working and I couldn’t figure out why. I wanted to write about my recent familiarization trip to Sochi/Adler/Rosa Khutor and the bits and pieces that I observed while there. I was having a lot of fun thinking about the chaos of the construction and traffic that I saw. Nothing says ‘ready for the world’ like gaping manholes with no covers, knee-deep mud surrounding omnipresent construction, grocery shelves stocked with meat-in-a-can, and summer Olympic temperatures in a winter Olympic city.

But the reason I kept hitting delete on my draft message is that I try to make these messages pertinent to your Olympic preparation. Continue reading

Time and Action

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This might be quite obvious, but February comes up really quickly in the calendar year. What I mean is, we’re only 31 days into 2013 and already it is February. Not surprisingly… the same thing will happen next year. In 2014 those first 31 days will move extraordinarily slowlyand unbelievably quickly. (Actually, this whole pre-Olympic year might go that way.) Seems that time always moves that way with respect to anticipation; simultaneously slow and fast.

As a summer athlete I had 6 or 7 months at the beginning of a year to get comfortable with the fact that my Olympic year – those numbers that had been in my head forever (’92, ’96, 2000) – had arrived.  I could be way off on this, but sometimes I think that the Winter Olympics must kind of sneak up on people. Don’t let that happen to you: Be comfortable and ready when 2014 and specifically, February 2014 arrives. Continue reading