I love the Olympics – the games, the glory, the intensity. I especially love the sports that defy gravity, for example, gymnastics. How these people do what they do leaves me awestruck and inspired.
Yet, the best part of the Olympics for me is the storytelling. All of it: the defeats, the wins, the losses, the overcoming of adversity to succeed, the failures that shape our character. The back stories of the athletes – all of them champions in my mind for ascending to the top of their fields –inspire me.
The Stories Are In the Journeys, Not Just the Destinations
Take, for example, teen Gabby Douglas, the determined daughter of a single mother, and the first African American female to win an individual gold in gymnastics. How much did she and her family sacrifice to bring her to the pinnacle of success? She, like so many athletes, is more than a winning face on a Wheaties box.
How about Kayla Harrison, gold medalist in Judo, who survived trauma by sexual abuse at the hands of her own coach starting when she was just twelve years old? It’s not the trauma we focus on; it’s her strength of character to overcome it. Her triumph was more than a gold medal; by telling her story and testifying against her coach, she inspired others who face similar issues. Hers was a victory over adversity, and she was the superhero of her own journey long before she won a gold medal.
Or, consider the story of 25-year-old South African, Oscar Pistorius, called ‘Blade Runner’ for his prostheses, the first double amputee to compete on an Olympic track. Whether he wins or not is incidental, he has made history. His story lies in his tenacity, and all the people he has inspired.
These “champion” stories are about more than sports and medals. Stories are about journeys, not just destinations. They are universal archetypes (think: Joseph Campbell) that speak to our ability to overcome challenges, walk through the hero’s journey, to be the superhero of our own lives, and they speak to our better selves. It’s the universal story of greatness that inspires all of us. We may not all be athletic competitors; yet we all have superhero qualities that propel us to be better tomorrow than we are today.
Greatness is a Universal Quest in Life and Business
To celebrate the Olympic spirit in all of us, Nike launched a series of ads that speak to the greatness in every person. One of my favorites is of pre-teen Nathan, an overweight native of Ohio, who is running on a road by himself and pushing his physical limits. His quest for greatness is the everyman journey to be better.
Each of us can be the superhero in our own lives, and that also means telling our stories to the world. Think about all the stories you have to tell that shape your life and, by extension, your business:
• How have you faced and overcome adversity in life and in business?
• What did you fail at and how did it shape your character?
• How did failure make you better? What did it teach you?
• When did others doubt you (the “underdog” story); yet your tenacity to never give up paid off?
• How are you walking the hero’s journey in your own life?
Greatness is Inspiring Others with Your Story
Greatness of character is found in the stories of our journeys, not just in those of the destinations. There are often more lessons in the “traveling” than in the end game. Even in business, all of us can be great by sharing our stories to help inspire others. Every entrepreneur has failed, and there are invaluable lessons in the failures: fail fast and fail forward is an incredible way to learn.
What stories of struggle, failure, “underdog” status, or success against the odds can you share to inspire and better connect with friends, family, and your customers and prospects?
Our common struggles can often connect us in the most unexpected ways because they are part of the universal human experience. These will connect you to your audience in ways that facts and “data” can never do. That’s part of what “keeping it human” is about.