What can Olympic athletes teach us about failure?

Picture this:

You have been training for 15 years of your life. You are on a training run, flying down the hill at 70 km per hour. Next thing you know, you catch an edge on your left ski, lose control, skid 100 metres, and slam into a safety net. As they say in life, you never know what a day will bring.

This is what Allison Forsyth’s day looked like as she represented Canada in the downhill slalom. She couldn’t get up from the ground. “It took me about 15 seconds to realize what had happened, and it was kind of a “see you in 2010 moment for me”, Forsyth said. “I am confident that I can come back and be strong in this sport in the future. The timing is unfortunate.”

When I first read her quote, I was stunned. I reread the quote to make sure that I had understood it correctly. Now THAT is a high performance athlete. Some people would never recover mentally from something like that. Imagine you were one run away from your Olympic dream, in a heck of a lot of pain, and waiting to fly home to be operated on. It was obviously not the Olympic experience that Allison was anticipating. I was so impressed by her forward looking perspective – from disaster to moving forward in 15 seconds or less!

There are 3 key things we can learn from Allison:

1. We all catch edges in our careers – it’s not personal, it is part being a professional.

2. Take stock, deal with the reality of the situation, accept it, AND learn from it.

3. Start a new goal as soon as possible.

We have all had crash and burn experiences in our careers, but it’s our response to these issues that is the key. Well done Allison – see you at the podium in 2010!