CEO Conversation: Courage to Continue

CEO Conversation: Courage to Continue


We love watching people who are at the top of their game. The Olympics are a good example of that right now. Whether seeing someone fly 350 feet in the air from a ski jump or being transfixed by the beauty of ice dancing, we see people who rise to levels of greatness and make it look easy. What we don't see are the countless hours of work that make this outcome possible. With the Olympics as a backdrop, let's take a quick look at three things that can make us champions in our business and personal lives: preparation, execution and courage.

1. Preparation

In his poem "The Ladder of St. Augustine", Henry Wadsworth Longfellow explains how those who excel find time for preparations when he wrote: "The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night." This doesn't mean that we have to become obsessed to the distraction of everything else in our lives--but to excel, we have to sacrifice comfort and time to improve our game.

2. Execution

Preparation however, does not guarantee outcome. It positions us so we can compete when the opportunity arrives. A great example of this was the performance of Nathan Chen, a figure skater in the current Olympics. He is the reigning U.S. champion and was a favorite to win the gold medal at these games. In his short program, it looked anything but easy as he fell two times and seemed to be lost on the ice. His score put him in 17th place with no chance of taking the podium. With all the dedicated time he took to prepare, he failed to execute the jumps that had made him a favorite. Failure to execute, does not make us a failure, it just reminds us more preparation is needed. Success doesn't necessarily come from breakthrough innovation like Chen's multiple quad jumps, but from flawless execution. A great strategy alone won't win a game or a battle; the win comes from basic blocking and tackling.

3. Courage

Winston Churchill once said: "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." With all the preparation we make there will many times when we fail to execute as planned. It has happened, and it will continue to happen. We just continue to dust ourselves off and try again. Courage was shown by Nathan Chen when he advanced to his free skating program and landed 6 quad jumps, which had never been done before. His performance gave him the highest score ever in the Men's Olympics competition with 215.08 points and vaulted him to 5th place. When Nathan Chen left the ice, everyone knew they had seen a champion, just not of these Olympic Games.

Take time today to consider what more you can do to prepare, so you can blossom into the professional you were meant to be. Practice to execute at the highest level even under pressure. Most importantly, have courage to get back up when you inevitably fail. Remember, the best make it look easy, but it's not. Excellence is always hard, and it is forged on the anvils of preparation, execution and courage.

Now, get to work.