I spent the last two days in Prague at our annual company meeting – slides, beer, little sleep and many conversations. A presentation session I very much enjoyed was a talk by Ben Hunt-Davis, 2000 gold medalist from the Sydney Olympic games. Ben shared his story of winning the ultimate sports trophy in Men’s Eight race, starting out as little more than an above average rower. The man certainly knows a thing or two about winning.
A couple of his ideas stuck with me. One was the team’s principle to look absolutely everything through the lens of ‘does it make the boat go faster?’. Taking the boat for a check at wind tunnel did, having a pint at the pub or participating in the opening ceremony didn’t. So none of the team members went to the ceremony, for instance, though I’m sure they would have loved to.
Another thing that resonated particularly well with me was the story about men’s four finals where one team was jumping up and down to celebrate coming third but three of the German rowers did not have the power to stand up to accept their medals. Golden medals. So the eight team made an agreement before the race never to talk to each other if they lose gold and have the energy to stand up on the pedestal. How’s that for commitment?
These ideas work well even if your aim is something other than rowing a bit faster than men in the other five boats. The concept of Does it make the boat go faster? – reminds me of somebody I knew years back who only did two kinds of things – those that made him money and those that got him laid. Perhaps this was a bit too monotonous (or rather bitonous) but hey, he was focused and it worked. All in all nice to have food for thought delivered like this.