The Best Part about the Olympics...Sharing it with family

About ten years ago, I was at a conference where Vince Poscente was the keynote speaker. He has a great story that I will share at the end of this post. He is an Olympian speed skier, author and motivational speaker.

He now shares his Olympic story as a motivational speaker for businesses with many great messages stemming from his experience of following his dream to the Olympics. I have read his books and subscribe to his email newsletter.

I especially loved this week's newsletter that I wanted to share. You can subscribe and read past posts on his website.

"Time and again, after delivering an Olympic keynote speech, the question most asked: What was the best part of competing at the Olympics? The answer is always the same. “It was great to share it with family.”

Maybe this makes perfect sense, since, at your deathbed, family is what matters most.

Of the 3,000 athletes competing in Sochi, a couple of hundred will go home with medals and the rest have a nice little participant souvenir. Medal or not, sharing with family is a true highlight.

You’ll hear plenty of stories from the Olympics. Heartwarming stories like Alex Bilodeau’s credit to his brother Frederic for the daily inspiration he displayed while dealing with Cerebral Palsy.

You’ll never hear stories about the Mitchel Malyks in Sochi. Mitchel placed 26th in the men’s luge singles. The only media sound bite that could be picked up is Mitchel (18) is the youngest competitor in his event. The true story is one of family pride.

His father John is a long time family friend. We basically adopted John when he moved to Alberta. When I was the executive director of Alberta Luge, John became my right hand man. Along with my brother, we all were roommates in the years leading up the Olympic Winter Games in Calgary in 1988. John volunteered the Olympic Organizing Committee in luge. He even competed in some smaller races. Fast forward to the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.

John flew his entire family to Sochi to cheer their Mitchel on. Did they hope Mitchel would medal. Of course. But what mattered to them was the family experience. I can’t speak for Mitchel, but chances are, this is what he will cherish from his time at Sochi.

It's reported, NHLers, Jamie Benn, Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Getzlaf, Roberto Luongo, Mike Smith and coaches Mike Babcock and Lindy Ruff aren't bringing family over because of fears of terrorism. That’s a shame since their experience will only be with teammates.

In Albertville, the host committee organized a family hosting exchange. My folks stayed at a family’s home in Bourge St. Maurice. We stay in touch with them to this day. Families communing with families – the quintessential Olympic experience.

What motivates you to succeed in your business?

In your life?

Chances are… if you boil it down… family is what will drive you to the Olympic principles of excellence."

Here is Vince's story as I remember from his talk (that I wrote just prior to the 2008 Olympics):

When he was younger, he had a friend ask him if he wanted to go luging at Lake Placid. Vince believed in trying everything once so he went. While there they met the Canadian luge team. They dreamed of being on the Canadian team but were told that they couldn't just pick up a sport and become Olympians. Many years later, the Olympics are in his hometown in Calgary. He's in the stands for the opening ceremonies. He tells the story of watching the Canadian team entering the stadium. The crowd goes nuts. He says the noise in his head went silent as he watched his buddy walk in with the Canadian team. His friend followed his dream, trained hard and made the Canadian luge team.

Vince was 26 years old at the time and he decided that he wanted to compete in the Olympics. The next Olympics were in France. Speed skiing was a demonstration sport. Vince was a recreational skier, but he had a dream. The way he tells the story is that he did what his competitors were not willing to do. That's how you get ahead (in business - as he now addresses the business world).

To make a long story short (and if you ever have the chance to hear him tell the story live, it is definitely worth it) he made the final round and had been faster than the others going into the last run. As I was listening to him tell the story (and he showed the video), I remembered it. I came home and checked my old videotapes. There it was. Not in the middle of an episode. I started recording as his turn was coming up. I was watching it live and remembered being so excited (more than 10 years later, I still had it on tape). Unfortunately, he caught an edge and did not win.

He continues the story by saying how depressed he was afterwards, until he overheard his dad on the phone telling a friend: "those Olympics Games were the greatest experience of my entire life. I'm so proud of my kid". He was proud not because of the result but because of the "journey of integrity" that it took to get there. To be able to strive to that excellence. It's the path we take to get there.

I can understand the importance of results. Countries spend a lot of money sending athletes, coaches and officials to the Olympics. We have more important issues that perhaps our money should be spent on. But the Olympics represents dreams, passion, dedication and compassion. It brings a country together with our hopes, our disappointments and our triumphs.