My parents and friends were ecstatic the first time they saw me on national television, when I was ranked as one of our country’s top 10 women platform and springboard divers.
The journey to get there wasn’t easy. Because I wasn’t a natural athlete, I spent long hours training.
In fact, it wasn’t unusual to practice 3 to 5 hours per day. Then there was having to make time for weight training, running, and periodic ballet lessons in between taking 18 hours of college classes and holding down two part-time jobs waitressing.
Fortunately, I had throughout my 13 years of competitive diving some fabulous coaches from whom I got some valuable insights that I carried into my life’s work and continue to rely on to this day. I call these insights “success gems.” Here are a just a few keys to success I learned over the years.
The “Success Gems” That We All Need To Remember
1. Early in your work relationships, discuss and clarify how you want to work together.
During a workout session, it was common to have numerous spectators sitting in the bleachers watching us practice.
To this day, I can recall the horrified looks on their faces and the occasional gasps when, after completing a dive, my coach would yell at me using words that would scare a Marine during basic training.
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However, all that yelling and even the use of profanity didn’t bother me. Instead, it motivated me to want to do better.
When we first started to work together, my coach took me aside and talked to me about my goals. I can recall his exact words: “As long as I am yelling and screaming at you, that’s because I believe in you. When I stop yelling and screaming, that’s when you better start to worry. Is that okay with you?”
I agreed, because I wanted someone who shared my belief in my ability to reach the top. So, whenever he yelled, I beamed inside!
Today, when coaching executives or working with my staff, I don’t assume or rely on trial and error methods to determine how best to communicate. Instead, I ask, and we set clear expectations of how best to work together. Communication is one of the biggest keys to success.
2. Strive to be among the best and better than all the rest.
“Don’t set a goal of wanting to be the best,” said another diving coach early on in my diving career.
I was confused when he first uttered these words, because I wanted to be the best, and I had lots of medals to show for it.
My diving coach went on to explain that when you are the best, there is nowhere else to go but downhill. “Instead,” he continued, “you want to be as good as the best and better than all the rest.”
After thinking about what he said, I realized that you can’t win every time. When you don’t win, then you aren’t the best, and that can be discouraging. By being among the best, you’ll be a long-term winner as opposed to a flash in the pan. After all, they take the top three qualifiers to the Olympics!
When forming my own company years later, these insightful words helped to shape the business. We explain to our clients that we may not be the best, but we assure them that we are among the best and are better than all the rest. It’s been working for over 30 years!
3. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
The toughest dive I can easily recall having to learn was an inward 2 1/2 somersault. What was so significant about that dive was that it had to be taken off the top first – 34 feet above the water. When diving from these heights, some say you land anywhere from 35 to 45 mph.
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All I remember is that I took off poorly and landed flat with a splat. My greatest fear from diving off the 10m platform suddenly became a reality, and it was even more painful than I had imagined.
There I was, standing on the pool deck, crying hysterically, looking horrified at all the broken blood vessels in the front of my body, shaking uncontrollably and barely able to breathe, when all of a sudden I heard my coach firmly say to me, “Do it again.”
Something inside me told me that my coach was right. While climbing up that platform ladder 34 feet into the air, my coach blurted out at the top of his lungs something that I’ve always remembered: “If it were easy, everybody would be doing it!”
One of the biggest keys to success is being willing to do those things that others are less willing to do for fear of failure. Otherwise, you will be like everyone else. It still isn’t easy!
Many of us may be fortunate, as I have, to receive gems and words of wisdom from others. We also learn our own valuable life lessons. In each case, we like to remember and hold onto these keys of success.
But, like me, perhaps you have learned that holding onto them is only part of the storyline. We need to put them to work – sometimes daily, and sometimes several times throughout our day, because that’s truly what it takes to make a difference to achieve what we want.