What I Learned from Sochi

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February 25, 2014 by Nicole

I was pretty open about my excitement for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games – I love the Olympics! Sports are inherently dramatic: in order to have a winner, you have to also have a loser. The Olympics are also unifying. For the run of the Games, we all had something to watch, discuss, hope and root for together.

But mostly, it’s inspirational and exciting to see the best in their sports compete for the title, knowing that this is a once-in-four-years chance to be the best, come out on top and be a champion….in every sense of the word. We saw champions rise to the occasion or falter & under-perform under the brightest lights in their sport. How they handled victory or defeat was equally compelling to watch.

While they’re still fresh in our minds, I wanted to come back to reflect on the moments that taught me something in Sochi.

You choose what you focus on
Early on in the Games, I read a quote from Team USA freestyle skier Heather McPhie. She shared that “every morning, I write down the three things I want to work on. It’s incredible how much I’ve evolved by focusing on my strengths rather than what went wrong.” This is a great approach to your dance journal. (Don’t have one? Find out why you should here.)

In sports, just like in dance, there are many directions you can choose to focus your energy. But I think Heather articulated a really effective one. It’s a positive approach to training/improvement that helps eliminate negativity that can become distracting and burdensome instead of motivating and useful to you.

It’s one day of your life, not your whole life in a day
The Olympics are certainly a special and unique event, but there are plenty of auditions, performances, etc that also feel like one of the biggest days of your life. It’s important to have perspective and remember that it’s still just one day in your life, not your whole life in that day. When Patrick Chan unexpectedly placed 2nd instead of 1st, he told the media “I’m [still] smiling because I look at not just today. You can’t define an athlete because of one day,” reminding them that he’s also the current reigning men’s world champion in figure skating.

The bigger picture here is that everyone, including world champions and gold medalists, has bad days. A bad day doesn’t mean you’re not good at something – it means you’re human. Your career – dance, sports or otherwise – is defined by its entire course, not a single snapshot.

Your turn is nonexistent
We’re taught that good things come to those who wait. While that is true and helps teach us patience, it’s not always that simple. Defending world champion Patrick Chan probably could have made the argument that it was “his turn” to win the Olympics. He had experience in Vancouver, learned from that, improved, and is now a six-time Canadian champion & three-time world champion. It seemed reasonable to expect that he would win. Except he didn’t. He had an off day – not even a terrible one. But another competitor had a better one, so Patrick ended up with a silver medal.

I think for me, the biggest piece of advice I saw in this story was that expectations – your own and those projected onto you – are not necessarily your friend. There’s no such thing as your turn for a title, a part or a job. These things do come with time, but mostly when the right set of circumstances align.

It’s not always your day
When Shaun White was interviewed just after not medaling, he told the reporter “it just wasn’t my day. I’ll live on to fight another one…next time.” I don’t think there’s any Olympic athlete in any event that isn’t trying their best. But the truth is that far fewer athletes will get to stand on the podium than those who will fall short of it. The truth is that sometimes your best just wasn’t good enough (or what they were looking for). Which leads me to…

What is winning anyway?
In each Olympic event, there were plenty of athletes who knew before they started that a medal was likely not in their future. So then, what’s winning? Simply qualifying for the Olympics was the achievement for many. Maybe scoring a personal best was the most you could ask for. Winning and what that means is up to you to define for yourself.

Being a good sport matters
In sports and dance, there will be disappointments. This is inevitable. Back to Shaun White. After his last run, when it became apparent that he would not win his 3rd gold medal, he hugged his competitor and the winner Iouri Podladtchikov – and from where I was sitting, it seemed genuine. He made sure to say to the media that while he was disappointed with his run, he was “happy for the guys who did well.”

Being gracious and sincere in the midst of the agony of defeat is so hard but character-building and revealing. How you handle “no” or disappointment speaks volumes about you and future employers and colleagues will take note when you demonstrate that you’re not only a great athlete/artist, but a good person.

These were big for me, but there are a so many other lessons and moments that resonated. Here’s a fantastic collection.

Which Olympic moments stood out to you? What will you remember most from Sochi?

About the author: I’m a professional communicator with a love of dance, entertainment and constant improvement. You can find me on Google+, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

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