Like anybody else on the planet, for past 2 weeks or so I too have been keenly following the Rio olympics – the greatest show on earth. Even though India’s performance was not upto mark, watching greatest sportspersons compete at Olympics is a source of learning. It makes you wonder why some excel and finish at the podium and some are left behind. Everyone has put in the hard work for years and has an equal chance to get a place on podium and make history.
Watching the sporting events like archery and badminton in initial week, it struck me that how close Indian atheletes got to winning but couldn’t cross the line to the podium. We came fourth in many events. Deepika Kumari the top ranked Archer has a heart warming story of a girl from small town who fought against odds to come where she is. When I watched her in team and individual archery events, she couldnt outperform herself leave aside other competitors. Expectations were really high from Deepika as would be from any other established professional of her field. She seemed to be crumbling under the weight of expectations Deepika could not keep control on her nerves in the crucial deciding moments. Same story repeated with Saina Nehwal, the badminton star who again could not match her performance of last olympics.
In the same matches, if you look at the winners, they all showed nerves of steel. At any event like Olympics, a sportsperson is going to meet the best of world. After a point, the talent, skill and technique seem no longer differentiating factors. What differentiates a winner from others is mental toughness. The ability of mind to have a tight leash on nerves, to control all emotions of nervousness, anxiety and tension. Everybody has put in thousands of hours into practice to perform their best in those few minutes or even seconds of the matches. But one thing any practice can not imitate is the actual feel of the event. When at practice, your mind knows that it is a practice and therefore is calm. Your body does the same work. Here comes the differentiating factor of how strong you are mentally as a person. It is this ability of keeping calm in most stressful and crucial moments is what makes a winner. Olympics is not only a test of an athlete’s physical prowess but also a test of his mental toughness.
This is applicable to not only olympics but also to life in general.Keeping calm under stress is an invaluable trait, skill or whatever we call it. It is a critical ingredient of leadership. Irrespective of field, be it sports, corporate job, politics, anybody who aspires to be a leader, aspires to be the best in their field or to lead a team, a company or people has to have the ability to stay calm irrespective of the situation. This one trait is what made MS Dhoni the captain cool. It is part of one’s core temperament. Though one can work on it and one needs to work on it be an effective leader. A leader is someone others look up to for inspiration, guidance and more so in crucial times of a crisis. It is during crisis, real leaders emerge by managing the crisis not only with the help of their skills and experience but also with their ability to stay calm.
You can read about how successful people stay calm in the article (link below).