Making Your Olympic-Sized Dreams Come True
The opening Olympic ceremonies in Seoul, South Korea, was one of the peak experiences in my (CrisMarie) life. It’s the story most people ask me to speak about. There’s more to that story than you might imagine, and it feeds directly into what I love about my work now.
What I love most about my work is having the opportunity to see people bring more of who they are to whatever they do and as result getting to witness people create the lives they want and fulfill their dreams.
We believe this happens when people become aware and learn to manage their energy.
The first step involves understanding that we are energy or chi, which means life force. In talking about energy, I like to use an analogy of a battery.
A battery, when it is sitting on the shelf, is simply potential energy. It can even appear dead; Nothing is happening. However, as soon as the negative pole is connected to the positive pole, all of that changes.
As soon as that connection is made, all of the electrons that have accumulated on the negative pole start moving as quickly as possible to the positive pole and kinetic energy results. This energy can be used to start an engine, light up a house or play a tune.
We humans are very similar. We have tremendous potential energy and without a goal, we appear much like the battery on the shelf. When we create a goal, vision or dream (positive pole), and we’re aware of where we are in current reality (negative pole), the energy turns to kinetic energy.
With this energy, we can create a company, write a book, raise a child, basically use that energy to go wherever we have decided.
I enjoy speaking and the topic I get asked to speak on most frequently is making the Olympic rowing team and going to the 1988 Games in Seoul, Korea. I think the reason people ask so often to hear that story is because we all have our own version of an Olympic dream.
We all have big goals. We may not talk about them and they may not be THE Olympics. I believe there is something in the heart of each of us that we are reaching for, some purpose that gives us meaning, a spark that turns our chi into kinetic energy: energy-in-motion.
People often shy away from saying what they really want. When I’m coaching executives or individuals. I encourage them to get ‘jazzed’ about something. If the energy is going to flow with velocity, that positive pole can’t be a ‘should.’ It needs something you have passion about.
An example of that passion came from a friend, Mary. We worked together at a top 5 consulting firm. She was a CPA and was making good money, quite accomplished. Honestly though, when she talked about her work there was no joy in her tone.
One day she came into the office quite vibrant. She was very excited about a workshop she had taken over the weekend. I asked her what it was about. She turned a little red and said, “Well I’ll tell you, but keep it quiet. I went to a Reiki workshop.” As she talked about the workshop she lit up.
Later, as the weekend workshop energy diminished, I asked her if she was happy doing the work she was doing. After a few false attempts at explaining the benefits of her job, she finally admitted, “No. What I’ve really always wanted to do was become a massage therapist.”
Now that was very different. Not long after that, I asked her to come join our new company, thrive!. While she worked for us, we encouraged her to explore bringing more of herself to the work. As she did, she got braver. She decided she wanted to go back to massage school.
Several years later, her life has transformed. She has her own massage studio with several massage therapists, along with a yoga studio. She loves her life now and is financially doing really well.
It is only through being aware of both poles: where you are, and what you want, that your potential energy starts transforming into kinetic energy.
You have probably known someone who is what I call the Dreamer – lots of great ideas (positive pole), but they have no grounding in current reality (negative pole). The poles are not connected. So, while they have great ideas, nothing happens.
Maybe you also know someone who is trapped in the current reality (negative pole), I call them the Victim. They think they can never have what they want. Often, they’re struggling with a chronic illness or have a series of tragic life events. The energy seems to not be available. It’s because the energy is tied up in the current reality (negative pole) with has nowhere to move.
The key is you need to identify both: a dream or goal that you are passionate about and clear picture of where you are, your current reality.
Sometimes the gap can seem overwhelming, but it’s doable. Let me share with you a little story that I think says it all. I’ll tell you the real secret to my making the Olympics.
First, I never set out to make the Olympics. My rowing career started when I decided I wanted to try something less competitive than music and more fun. I got a flyer that said any freshman over 5’10” could try out for rowing and would not be cut. I was 5’6” but I didn’t think they’d check.
It all started with wanting to have fun.
I realized that only eight women make the top boat that gets to race. I wanted to be in that eight. I made it and we won the Pac 10’s.
Next year, I wanted to make the varsity eight. I was one of two sophomores who did, and we won the National Championships.
Next, I wanted to become the stroke, or the leader of that varsity eight. I did, and we won our second national title.
Next, I wanted to make the US National Team. I did, and I was in the first boat to beat the mighty Russians, winning a silver medal at the World Championships.
I was cruising, the Olympics were in my sights. I was sure I was going to make the boat.
Then just six months before the Olympics, I injured my back, rupturing three disks. I was off the water and suddenly my battery went dead. I couldn’t compete. All I could do was swim in a pool and go to physical therapy.
I won’t lie. I was nearly suicidal during that period. I couldn’t do what I had always done. I felt lost, definitely caught in the current reality.
Then I started using other resources. I picked up the book The Mental Athlete. Sure, I couldn’t be on the water, but I could imagine it. I couldn’t train with the others, but I could picture it or visualize myself coming back.
Three months before the Olympics, I was invited to the training camp. There was one last shot at making the team.
The visualizing paid off. The coach started me at the bottom and I had to race people one by one. I slowly rose through the ranks and, low and behold, I made the Olympic eight. I think I amazed everyone, but mostly myself.
The opening ceremonies in Seoul was one of the peak experiences in my life. Anytime I doubt myself I go back to that moment.
P.S. Let me know if you want coaching to make your Olympic-sized dreams come true?
CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke
Coaches, Business Consultants, Speakers and Authors of The Beauty of Conflict
CrisMarie and Susan work leaders and teams, couples in business, and professional women.
They help turnaround dysfunctional teams into high performing, cohesive teams who trust each other, deal with differences directly, and have clarity and alignment on their business strategy so they create great results.
Check out their website: www.thriveinc.com. Connect with CrisMarie and Susan on LinkedIn. Watch their TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It! Find your copy of The Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing Your Team's Competitive Advantage here.