Road to The London 2012 Olympics

road_to_london2012_620cIn less than two weeks, many of the best athletes in the world will gather to answer a simple question:

What are you capable of?

Learning from Olympians

As a mental consultant to many of Canada’s Olympic athletes, I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of their journey, to share in their stories of triumph and disappointment. Although the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games are only a few weeks long, and some events lasting less than a minute in some cases, it’s easy to lose sight of the years that led to that moment. The road to 2012 was filled with thousands of moments that have prepared each of these competitors for excellence.

What can we learn from their journey?

We don’t hear about most Olympians until after they have already achieved excellence, or captured the media’s attention after a spectacular win. What we don’t see are the years of learning skills, gaining habits of competitiveness and consistency, and innovating with technology to get them to the world stage. They have long since perfected the myriad of techniques that together constitute excellence.

Some of us consider Olympic athletes to be different than us. But what I’ve found is that these are ordinary people, who have committed to do something extraordinary. There is no secret to it. There is only the doing a lot of little things, each one done correctly time and time again, until excellence in every detail becomes a firmly ingrained habit. Excellence becomes an ordinary part of their lives.

Lessons from the Best in the World

This series of blog posts aims to demystify some of the processes, skills, and mindsets that enables good performers to move up into the realm of the exceptional. While the learnings and experiences will be centered around the

Olympic Athletes in London, the takeaways for leaders in all walks of life are immense. Some of the topics we’ll explore include:

  • How athletes use rituals to preserve their willpower during key moments
  • Why talent is a myth when it comes to high performance
  • What creates anxiety for Olympians, and how they manage it
  • How focus styles and attention cues affect
  • Which focus style athletes use for optimal results
  • How great athletes shift from training mode to performance mode before events

In the weeks to come I also want to share some of the stories of those who don’t reach the podium. For every athlete who medals, there are dozens of high performers who are equally capable and hardworking, who’ve seen their share of adversity in getting to the top levels of their sport. For them, the challenge of striving for high achievement has instilled something more important than climbing the podium. While society often measures success and failure based on the outcome alone, true champions realize the journey itself is the reward, instilling the mindset of high performance that remains long after the Olympics ends.

Why We Strive for High Performance

Framed on the wall of several Olympic training facilities in Canada is the following quote that sums up the real reason we strive for high performance, not just high achievement.

“The duration of an athletic contest is only a few minutes; while the training for it may take many weeks of arduous work and continuous exercise of self-effort. The real value of sport is not the actual game played in the limelight of applause; but the hours of dogged determination and self-discipline, carried out alone, imposed and supervised by an exacting conscience. The applause soon dies away, the prize is left behind but the character you build is yours forever.”

Whether your arena is athletics, business, school, or public service, over the next month we’ll explore what it takes to use that journey to create the best version of yourself as a leader, and how to instil the same in others.

Looking forward to sharing this amazing Olympic experience to come.

If you would like to get in touch with me personally or have any questions about what is going on behind the scenes in London, please leave a comment below, or reach out to me on Twitter @RussHunter. I am looking forward to engaging with you!


Russell Hunter