Turn up the Volume!

I’m not sure about you, but I’m looking forward to moving past messages about patience and flexibility with respect to our goals. While these traits remain essential in the ongoing management and prevention of viral spread, and as a team you’ve done a phenomenal job at them…. I’d like to turn my Chef’s message back to performance and ambition management.

Let’s turn the “Can Do” volume up, and talk about winning again.

I won 6 World and Olympic titles and stood beside the top spot another 6 times.  If you asked me what was the most important ingredient in my mental soup for that stretch of time, I’d give you a list like this;

  1. Be confident in your preparation and training.
  2. Be respectful of the great potential of your competitors
  3. Fear and Doubt will be present at all of your Can I? Will I? moments (in competition and training)
  4. Believe that you are a somebody who can be better and/or outlast others.

 My soup, it seems, was kind of a mash up. Believe in me: Believe in them. Be doubtful: Be confident. How does that work? How can one person be simultaneously both?

I believe that ambitions require us to feel (at least) two ways about things. This is the result of wanting to do, to try, to be – more. Think about every milestone you’ve ever achieved. As soon as you got there (yay!!), you knew you could do more – didn’t you? Have you ever been happy with the performance, but unhappy with the result? (Think about a personal or national best that nets a 4th place result). This idea is so important to me that I wrote a book and titled it “The Power of More”.

It was a powerful moment when I first realized that I could feel doubt and confidence at the same time. It was the night before our first World Cup win. I felt empowered by our semi-final result and terrified of the expectation that went with it. In the dark of night, I admitted to my rowing partner, Kathleen Heddle, that I was scared and her simple “me too” reply had the effect of turning down all the negative voices in my head. As the “Not Me” volume went down, I could more clearly hear, “Can Do”.

For the next 10 years I managed my ambitions that way. I anticipated negative “Not Me” voices to be present (often) AND I trusted that I had a full complement of “Can Do” voices. I didn’t expect their volume levels to be balanced, I just knew they were both there, always.

Sometimes my negative “Not Me” voice was so quiet… I barely noticed it; I felt on-fire, ready to take on any challenge. At other times my confidence was fragile, all I could hear was “Not Me”. My “Can Do” level was so low it was hard to believe it was there, but experience told me that I just needed to turn the volume down on one side and up on the other.

Adjusting the volume on some days is easy. Being tired or hangry cranks up the “Not Me” volume, so eating or resting properly is an easy fix. Shifting focus onto technique from outcome is often an easy bump up to “Can Do” and has the same performance result. For sure, some days it feels impossible to change the balance. I need all the resources around me, team mates, coaches, family… and if I have it – time. The key is to know that the positive messages are always there, even if seemingly silent. It can be work to turn up that volume but I know you can do it.

For the last 6 months, since the moment I sent an email saying that Team Canada wasn’t going to attend Olympics in July 2020 there have been two sides to the conversation around the Tokyo2020 Olympics. The “yes it will” and the “no it won’t” happen conversations. Depending who is talking they both sound like real, and legitimate possibilities. 

I’d like to give you some energy for turning up the volume on the “Yes it Will”/ “Can Do” knob. You should know that the Canadian Olympic Committee is being world leading (I’m not exaggerating on this,) in its thoughtful planning on how to take Canadian athletes to the Tokyo 2020+1 Games in a healthy and safe way while still focusing on high performance regardless of a vaccine. Prevention and management will be essential, but plans are taking shape. In the same way that you, your team mates, coaches and your NSO’s are constructing Plan A, B, C through L, M, N, O, the COC is with and ahead of the global curve planning for your Olympic competition next year.  Be assured… The COC is not waiting to plan. They have their “Can Do” knob turned up to full volume. Marnie

Marnie McBean OC OLY
Chef de Mission Team Canada Tokyo 2020

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