Lesson from the Olympics: Make the Most of A Penguin Slide

I am part of the bi-annual social tribe that can’t get enough of the sporting triumphs and letdowns called the Olympics. Like every Olympics, the news from Sochi covers not only the competitive events, but also the lifestyle sacrifices that athletes have made in dedication to their sport.

Olympic coverage and commentary is filed with metaphors, secrets and lessons for business from the back stories of Olympians, and this column isn’t one of them.

The incident that caught my eye was a real-time penguin slide.

Devin Logan had a solid first run in the women’s ski slopestyle event. The effort was enough for a medal, but not enough for gold. What looked like a strong second run might have changed the medal standings for Logan, until her final jump. Logan landed off-balance, fell forward, and raced to the finish line on her stomach, skis uplifted and crossed behind her. Logan did a penguin slide – the skiing equivalent to a belly flop.

It wasn’t this dramatic setback that impressed me. It was Logan’s attitude after her penguin slide finish. Even through a helmet, goggles and a face full of snow, she stood up laughing, raised her arms and hopped like a gymnast sticking the landing of a pommel horse dismount. She laughed, and the world laughed along with her. 

British philosopher James Allen noted that “circumstances do not make a man; they reveal him.” That penguin slide revealed volumes about Devin Logan.

No coulda-shoulda-woulda blaming about a run gone awry and the loss of a gold medal. Just good-humored, total acceptance of her best effort at that point in time. Logan may be remembered for her very human connection with Olympic viewers long after her silver medal accomplishments have been celebrated. 

Whether you’re in sales, leading a business or managing a project, that penguin slide is an Olympic-sized take-away. Savor those preparation-backed, medal-worthy moments when you deliver a product, service or outcome that exceeds expectations. If your effort turns into a penguin slide, remember that it’s one point in time. And that circumstances don’t make you; they reveal you. 

Posted on February 13th, 2014