The Olympics - inspiring business ? Well, up to a point ...
So there I am ploughing a watery furrow back and forth across the local pool. To be fair to myself this isn't the events of the last week or so knee-jerking the potato from his couch. Not at all. In fact the exercise campaign began a year or so ago - though having said that given the current speed of my reactions generally even a knee- jerk might take a good twelve months
Regenerating the temple that is my body is maybe a more daunting task even than carving the Olympic Park out of Newham. Particularly when my sole modus operandi is a rather stately and decorous breast stroke that doesn't lend itself to the froth and frenzy of the young folk in the Pool there last week. Indeed I rather fancy that Captain Matthew Webb fresh from his trip across the Channel in 1875 would have recognised and endorsed it as exemplifying a true gentleman's style.
However despite all that the fact is that after a year the heart and lungs are responding well and the real challenge in keeping the imagination ticking over for the thirty or so minutes a day I now spend largely submerged.
A stray thought that surfaced into the vacant mind was the notion that one aftermath of the Games will be articles, books and other proliferations urging the need to apply all of lessons of sporting success to business life. The success of the British team in Beijing meant that it has been all but impossible for any business event to proceed without the presence of one heroic athlete or other preaching their positivity and purpose.
Given my own patchy record in athleticism (please see above and below) I am genuinely in awe of those with that skill and determination - but I am deeply dubious about how this might be applied to other aspects of life.
Indeed recent success - take the triumphs of Team GB's cyclists - if anything confirm my prejudices. The essential fact is that for the four years since Beijing the riders, coaches and technicians of that squad have known almost to the minute, the time and circumstances when they would next really have to perform. Resources have been secured and invested, bodies and minds have been honed, apparatus designed and refined with specific and unalterable goals. Even unpredicted and unwelcome events such as a star athlete falling inappropriately in love with one of the support team are not permitted to throw the process out of synch.
Because In sport - and in Olympic sport in particular - opportunity presents itself clearly and unambiguously occupying a quite precise slot in time and in space - that is probably why it is all so compelling. In the rest of life though and in business, opportunity is much more ephemeral and fleeting. So although it's great to delight in the achievement maybe we should be hesitant about to the scope to transfer insight gained in sport into business and other human experience.
But maybe we are coming at inspiring athletic triumph from quite the wrong angle ?
Let me take you back, if I may, to the Derwentside and District Schools Athletics meeting of June, 1969. I have just won -and, mark you well, set a new record - in the shot put and bask modestly in the attendant glory.
The PE teacher sidles up. Someone must run the 400 metres hurdles - just get round the track and the points mean the school wins the overall title. But I've never done it before, I protest- shot putters keep their feet anchored firmly to the floor. Take one for the team, says he.
It's the year after David Hemery won gold at Mexico - perhaps I will uncover an unsuspected talent in this newly glamorous event. I'll do it for the team, sez I.
We line up and off we go - I bring down the first hurdle. My stride pattern (pace Colin Jackson) is out of kilter - then the second and then the third hurdles clatter. There are ten flights of hurdles in the race - do you see where we might be going? Well, with 300 or metres gone and with nine now scattered behind me I make a final, despairing - and fruitless -effort to get over the last. I stumble to the line, crossing it with the less than inspiring realisation that I have actually equalled the unlovely world record. Every last one of them tumbled. If only it was ten pin bowling. Strike !
So if you are looking for someone to translate doggedness in the face of mild humiliation (and maybe that's a more universal experience) into a motivational piece- you need look no further.