Although I’d rather stick pins in my eyes than watch sports, I am addicted to the Olympics. I’ve watched every summer and winter Olympics since I can remember, and although Kevin and I never watch television, the t.v. is on all day, every day, for the two weeks the Olympics plays out.
(May I pause here for a moment and ask, was that the most bizarre opening ceremony ever? Yikes.)
There’s just something about watching people, who aren’t being paid, give everything they’ve got for the love of sport and country. Watching the Olympics, you witness, quite literally, the performance of a lifetime.
These aren’t people I know, and in most cases, have even heard of. They’re performing in events I know absolutely nothing about, and yet, there I am, glued to the screen, cheering for Sun Yang, as he wins China’s first Olympic men’s gold in swimming.
What is going on? Why do I suddenly care about something that never gets my attention the other 50 weeks of the year? And most importantly, what the heck does this have to do with communication? (I’m getting there, I swear.)
Whether it’s the Olympics, or a performance by Yo-Yo Ma, or simply a presentation by someone in your office, we’re riveted when people show up. I don’t mean “show up” as in, “make an appearance.” I mean, really, truly, bring their entire selves to whatever it is that they’re doing.
So how can we, the uncoordinated, don’t-know-a-parallel-from-an-uneven-bar-regular-folks, deliver the performance of a lifetime?
Take these lessons from the Olympians:
1. Be willing to make mistakes. Whether it’s a missed pass, or a slow start, or bad form, every event, every day, mistakes gets made. Even though these atheletes have trained almost their entire lives for this moment, they still screw up. And what do we, the viewer, think, when we see this? We love them for it. We root for them. Why? Because it shows their humanity. This is also true in communication. When we’re willing to put our entire selves out there, mistakes and all, people respect us for it. It takes a lot of courage to risk looking dumb. Not everyone can do it. So when someone does, we’re immediately on their side.
2. Abide by the 30-second rule. I’m always astounded, as I watch gymnastics, how, when someone falls, it’s required that they try again. Within 30 seconds. They’ve just fallen, in front of millions of people, and yet they get up, dust off, and immediately get back to the task at hand. There literally isn’t time to think about the mistake they made. And yet how many of us will beat ourselves up, over and over again, over a bad presentation, an awkward client call, or a mismanaged meeting? Take a lesson from the gymnasts; give yourself 30 seconds, breathe, and move on.
3. Don’t hold back. If there’s one thing I see over and over again in my work, it’s people holding back who they are from the rest of the world. We’re so afraid to be real. But if you watch the Olympics you’ll see people, every day, giving everything they’ve got. When races are decided by mere fractions of a second, there simply isn’t an option to hold back.
The Olympics happen every 2 years, but life unfolds in moments. What are you waiting for? There’s no time like the present to give your performance of a lifetime.