Olympic athletes know a thing or two about practicing gratitude, grace under pressure, selflessness and work-life balance while on the job. The lessons we’ve gleaned from the amazing stories of the past few weeks go beyond Sochi, beyond 2014 and beyond the Olympics in general. They’re universal – and great inspiration for any workplace, whether that’s a snow hill, a classroom, at home or in an office.
So take some inspiration from the following stories from the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics to celebrate the same core values at your workplace.
Grace Under Pressure
Immediately after dethroning snowboarding legend Shaun White in the halfpipe competition, Iouri “iPod” Podladtchikov’s turned around, bear-hugged White and thanked him. Athletes aren’t expected to acknowledge an opponent, especially in such a big way, but iPod was effusive with praise for White for being his inspiration in the sport, saying, “He goes bigger than everyone, he’s more technical than anyone, he always tries to be ahead of everyone else, and I think that alone is very impressive. It just motivates me. He made me go out there and try new tricks and all this.”
Takeaway: Be a graceful winner by remembering how your opponent inspires you.
Shaun White also displayed grace under pressure this year. Instead of shrinking under the pressure of a crushing loss — failing to win his third consecutive gold medal — he gave the snowboards he used in Sochi to three Make-a-Wish kids who had been flown to the Olympics. Meeting White wasn’t part of their winning Make-a-Wish package, but White managed to find two of the kids and gave each a high-five and a hug.
Takeaway: Don’t dwell on a loss; instead seek out ways to turn the loss into a win.
Figure skater Evgeni Plushenko withdrew from the men’s individual event after injuring himself in the warm-up, clutching the base of his spine in pain. Despite the bitter disappointment he must’ve felt walking away from an event he’d trained for years to reach, he handled the moment with a grace. Before he left, he skated to the center of the rink and bowed to the crowd before waving farewell. He initially announced his total retirement from the sport, but now after a few weeks of recovery he’s vowing to have surgeries and return to the Olympics in 2018.
Takeaway: Know when to bow out, even when it’s the last thing you want to do.
Canada’s Alex Bilodeau credited his Olympic gold in freestyle skiing to his older brother Frederic, who has cerebral palsy. Immediately after winning, the moguls champion pulled his paralyzed brother over the barrier and gave him a big hug. He explained later, “Whatever I do in life, my brother is my real inspiration. Just like you and I, he has dreams and most of them are not realizable to him. But he never complains that it’s not realistic to him. He lives his dreams through me. So today, [and] Vancouver, for me, it’s the least I can do. He is my everyday inspiration.” It wasn’t the first time the skier celebrated a win with his big brother — back in 2010, he also dedicated his gold medal to Frederic.
Takeaway: Always remember to thank the people who support you and inspire you.
Skier Joss Christensen also paid tribute to a family member. The American gold medalist dedicated his win to his father, who died six months ago. “I wish he was here,” Christensen said of his father, “and I hope he’s looking down and smiling. I did it for him.”
Takeaway: Whenever you experience a moment of great success, take a moment of gratitude for an important person in your life who couldn’t be there to enjoy it with you.
It was a moment of “paying it forward” for Canadian cross-country coach Justin Wadsworth. Inspired by a similar save for Team Canada in a prior competition, Wadsworth rushed to the course and replaced a Russian athlete’s broken ski so he could finish the race. Russian skier Anton Gafarov crashed hard and then got twisted up in his broken ski, within sight of the finish line. Despite the possible effect on the Canadian team outcome, Wadsworth ran onto the track with a new ski. “It was like watching an animal stuck in a trap. You can’t just sit there and do nothing about it,” Wadsworth was later quoted as saying.
Takeaway: It isn’t always about winning.
Olympian Noelle Pikus-Pace talks about her athletic aspirations as teamwork with her husband and two children, telling TODAY.com, “It’s never been only me crossing finish line. It’s always been us.” Pikus-Pace, who competes in skeleton, a sliding sport similar to bobsled and luge, travels with her whole family in tow. They’re not just there for moral support — her husband has also used his background in engineering to help improve the design her sled. Working together as a family team is expensive. They spend a “small fortune” on travel expenses alone. But Pikus-Pace says she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Takeaway: The close support of family and friends is priceless. Value and support it in your workplace.
Who isn’t inspired after reading all these amazing stories? Use that inspiration to start sharing your grace and gratitude at home and at work, and look for ways to help others act like Olympians too.
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