MARCH 18, 2011

So it has been quite an eventful past few weeks, to say the least!  After having traveled Europe for a week and a half, visiting Venice, Rome and Vienna with the 4-man Bobsled World Championships nestled in the middle I have found myself back in Calgary and back to work on my education program, Classroom Champions.  Well, one more pretty amazing thing happened this past week as well- I was selected by the USOC to represent our country at the 3rd Annual International Olympic Medalist Summit in Greece this June. 

Yup!  I know what you’re thinking…and I didn’t even know this kind of thing existed until I got the email to apply last month, either!  So off I go to the birthplace of the Olympic Games to discuss Olympism and the communication of the Olympic Ideals.  Not a bad gig at all if you ask me/borderline another one of those little childhood dream-come-true things.  I’m not going to lie- I’m kind of expecting to be given a secret password plus have to ‘fingerprint’ scan my medal before I’m allowed entry into what is certain to be a lot of olive branch wreaths and white robes!

But I digress, as I’ve been side by side/internet connection by internet connection with my sister working long days trying to get support for Classroom Champions- recruiting teachers and classrooms, sniffing out sponsors, designing materials and…all kinds of other things that go into a start-up like this, I’m seeing more and more of the differences between the athlete’s “Olympic World” that I lived in for so long and the “Real World”.  I thought it would be interesting to list some of what I’ve been seeing and let you decide which world you’d prefer!  If I get enough of positive, or negative, reactions maybe Part Two will be right around the corner!

1. Straight up now TELL ME!

In the “Olympic World” one’s coach is blunt.  I mean like baseball bat blunt.  If you’re doing something the wrong way a memo isn’t sent to you suggesting you change it. You are told to change it with precision accuracy letting you know exactly where something should be for optimal performance.  It’s very simple most of the time and the best athletes are the ones that can adjust quickly.

In the “Real World” people have feelings.  Athletes tend to lose those very early on.  I have noticed that when someone is doing something ‘wrong’ in an office space it takes a very long time for it to be addressed.  Unfortunately in the meantime, resentment seems to build up towards that person for doing something wrong, even though they may not be aware of it and no one has told them- it is still there fault.

Winner: Olympic World

2. Thickest Skin

This goes in line with no. 1 but is slightly different.  The level of criticism one can handle is my subject here.  In the “Olympic World” harsh criticisms cute twin is called coaching. I’m not criticizing you, I’m coaching you!  In fact, my coach was such a critic that if I heard the word “decent” out of his mouth when referring to something I did I knew it was at 99% perfection.  It wasn’t until my team and I WON THE OLYMPICS that I got a “great job” out of him.

In the “Real World” true criticism is hard to come by.  I’ve had people tell me they were going to rip my work apart and would apologize in advance.  When it came back they had re-arranged a few sentences and made a couple of suggestions.  I simply let them know if that was their form of harsh criticism to never, ever ask me to criticize them, ever!

Winner: Coin Toss

3. Putting out Fires

As an athlete living in the “Olympic World” you constantly have issues to deal with.  How’s my hamstring feeling, how was my diet today, did I get enough sleep last night to train optimally today?  But at the end of the day, putting out each of those fires is best for you in the long run.  If you simply focus on each issue your long term goals are, the majority of the time, being met.  Yes, I always had big picture things we worked on no matter what but the beauty of training is the daily grind is what wins you your medal in the end and you know it.  I work with people in the business world on this constantly- finding the long term goals and learning to work them into your everyday situations.

In the “Real World” fires start all the time and they hinder our long term goals and performance.  Things come up everyday that need to be dealt with yet are not building toward the main goal of things we want 4 or 8 years down the road.  Finding the time to focus on the long term is sometimes the most difficult thing to do in the “Real World” and it’s probably where I need to find the most discipline on a daily basis to keep my new long term goals in site.

Winner: Olympic World

4. Give me Freedom or give me…

Here’s where the “Olympic World” starts to lose a bit of its luster.  The focus, drive and determination that it takes to succeed here cause an athlete to live in a very protective bubble.  We mustn’t stay up too late, have that extra drink or hit the ski slopes due to injury (unless you’re Shannon Bahkre or Lindsay Vonn).  You are very much a slave to your ambition.  It can be both amazingly rewarding and looking back, amazingly shocking what it takes.

And then we have the “Real World”…where if one wants to go ski and can afford it, then by all means have at it!  For many people in the “Real World” weekends are free and if there is work to be done it can usually be taken care of via blackberry or android phone. My weekends always seemed to be taken up by training and when it came to the idea of skiing the fear of getting hurt always kept me off the slopes.  Even when the Olympian or Olympic Hopeful isn’t training, they are thinking about it.  There tends to be very little off time as your diet and sleep during a rest day greatly affect the training day that follows.

Winner: Real World

So after four parts of Olympic World vs Real World, let me know what you think!