Monday, 26 October 2015

Way of the Champion - expert tips for Success

Lisa Curry MBE, AO, Olympic, Commonwealth and World Champion swimmer, won 24 gold, 21 silver and eight bronze swimming medals representing Australia 16 times over 1977-1992. Lisa would have to be the very definition of sporting success. It was utterly rewarding to hear her speak frankly about her life and the nature of success at the #cssummit #customerservice National Local Government Customer Service Network annual conference at the Gold Coast earlier this month.

Lisa (centre) with Well Done operational staff (L-R) Kellie and Liz

Noticed at a young age at the local pool, Lisa was invited to join a swim squad. Inspired by Shane Gould world record breaking performance and three gold medals in 1972, she trained hard, followed all of her coach's instructions precisely and quickly generated outstanding results. By 1974 Curry was the fastest 12 year old female swimmer in the world and went on to compete at the Olympic Games in Moscow (1980), two world championships (Berlin in 1978 and Ecuador in 1982) and the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton in 1978.

Competitive swimming was conventionally held to be a young person's game at this time, and one reason why Shane Gould retired at 17. Curry questioned this and, bucking the trend, made Olympic come backs after bearing children not once, but twice, to swim for Australia in Los Angeles in 1984 and again Barcelona in 1992 when she was 30. While Lisa obviously had natural ability in this sport it was clearly mental focus that kept her in the top 25 swimmers in the world for the duration of her career since age 15 and helped her ignore critical comment going into big races.

The question is, what can a champion like Lisa teach us mere mortals? 

Lisa's honesty and emotional were appreciated by our audience. She also talked about handling failure, and eventually turning this around with her competition surf boat racing team. Too engrossed, I can't relay the biographical detail but I can report what I thought about later arising from what she said. Consider this...

Do you have a goal or an interest? Competitive sport doesn't reward mediocre. Commitment in this context is training every day, not flaking out if the weather doesn't suit.

What are you prepared to do to achieve your goal? You really have to consider all aspects of your life - personal and professional - to make the adjustments needed to reach your potential. Is it worth it? Do you want it? Are you prepared to commit?

Goals are about priorities. Goals help us prioritise the myriad of tasks that wash over us daily. They help us set course and tack back to where we want to go.

It's not about the winning, it's about getting there. The day after you've won gold and the congratulations have been made, you move on. It's really about appreciating progress and what sort of person it makes you. This is really where our resilience comes from, if you think about it. 

I doubt that there was one person there that didn't take at least one powerful lesson home - be they carers in their personal life like me, professional trainers, managers or aspiring newcomers - whether this was a personal goal, a review of work-life balance or a startling new business initiative. 

In some ways, Lisa is quite uncompromising, and this clearly sets her apart. However, if we are less so, and do compromise, it is worth doing so consciously with our eyes wide open and not by default.

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