Joseph Lee's Perspectives
My view of the world
August 29, 2008 -- Beijing Olympics and Talent Development

                Which story is the one that people will remember?  Is it Michael Phelps’ 8 gold medals? Or the triumph of the Chinese gymnasts?  How about that Kitajima guy from Japan or the super fastman Bolt with a name that matches his speed?   Did you watch the huge upset pulled by the Japanese women’s softball team over the US team?   Or the Cuban who kicked the ref and the Swedish who threw away his bronze medal, both disgusted with questionable officiating?


                Outside the events, many would point to the CG effects on opening night, not to mention the faked vocals by the nine-year old as signs that so much of the games are staged.   Or the silenced protests that couldn’t materialize under the tight grip of the Communist Government.   Beijing is probably not happy with their northern neighbor’s invasion of Georgia in the midst of the games that were supposed to symbolize world peace.


                There were joyful hugs and tearful sobs, victory laps and loss-induced collapses. 


There were the shocked faces of the Japanese Dream Baseball team that suffered embarrassing losses to its Korean counterpart, and to add insult to injury, to a minor league team from the US and then who could forget the Redeem Team that showed the world that good sportsmanship would be remembered long after its gold medal.


                A picture is truly worth a thousand words.  Take a look at these (ESPN).


                I was in Japan during the final week of the Olympics where the broadcasts were full of Japanese athletes and sportscasters shamelessly exhorting their national heroes.  When the Japanese marathoner was behind the leader by over three minutes, the cheerleading play-by-play announcer, trying to find good news, noted that his pace was picking up.


                “Don’t you think he has a chance of getting a medal now?” he would ask the commentator.


                Even though the audience couldn’t see his face, we were treated to a long pause that meant “are you kidding me?” but came out in the more formal, “that would be unlikely.”


                I was in Japan for several corporate training events in executive communication.  The barrier to communicate is high in Japan where embarrassment is a more powerful motivator to be silent than praise can be to be creative.   


                I had to resort to another favorite golf story of mine to lower the barrier.


                In Japan, a junior golfer who grabs his first golf club is encouraged to learn basics—form, swing mechanics, stance, etc.   A PGA teaching pro friend of mine told me that he would simply tell the kid to grab the club and rip it, encouraging the child to hit the ball as far as he can.


                “You can’t teach distance, so you want them to learn to hit far to begin with.  We can teach the other stuff later.  That’s easy to fix.”


                I told my audience that the power to communicate is the same.  When we are children, we are so innocent and open, but then we are told that it’s bad to say this or that, and when we enter adulthood, even more restrictions are imposed.  My primary goals was to help them remove the barriers to communication—telling them to use all their emotions and body movements and voices to communicate.  That’s the communication equivalent of taking a rip.


                One of the tools that I had used was to have participants engage not only in role playing, but in playing out scripted scenes that we would videotape.  The participants had a blast.


                Talent development requires us to remove many of the inhibitions that society imposed on us.  Later in life, they are self-imposed.  If Olympic athletes imposed such restrictions on themselves, we would never see another Phelps or Bolt or Kitajima.  The Japanese Softball team may have given up after so many losses to the US team.  And the newest moves in gymnastics and platform diving may never happen.


                The Beijing Olympics taught us many lessons.   Whether they are positive lessons or negative ones, the 2008 Olympic Games will be a source of thousands of great stories for years to come.

2008-08-29 07:58:16 GMT
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