Everyone can be focused, passionate and dedicated to their work when they’re feeling good. Motivation is easy to come by, and success seems tangible.
It’s being focused, passionate and dedicated during those off moments — when the team is tired, when the chips are down, when it doesn’t seem to count — that separates the good from the truly exceptional, said Peter Vidmar, Olympic gold medalist and chairman of USA Gymnastics.
In his opening keynote address yesterday at the Fall 2009 Chief Learning Officer Symposium, Vidmar stressed the importance of staying engaged, even during those down times. Setting inspirational yet achievable goals is one part of it, but another involves continuously striving to improve.
The Fall Chief Learning Officer Symposium, taking place this week at the Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs, Colo., brought together nearly 400 attendees for a three-day conference built around the theme “Peak Performance: Pushing Your Organization to the Top.”
Vidmar offered three basic principles — risk, originality and virtuosity — that learning leaders could apply to everything from their overarching strategies to their everyday tasks in order to achieve peak performance.
“It’s written in my rule book that I’ve got to take some chances,” said Vidmar, referring to the first basic principle: risk. “Taking risks in my sport involves making mistakes. It’s OK to fail, so long as you learn from those mistakes.”
In fact, failure in some cases is a useful tool, because it teaches you to focus on areas in need of improvement. Losing a big competition “taught me to really focus on those things and get better,” Vidmar said. “What I learned from that experience was even more important.”
It’s also a great advantage to be innovative. As captain of the USA men's gymnastics team at the 1984 Olympics, Vidmar led the men's team to its first ever gold team medal.
“One of the reasons why our team won the Olympic team medal is every member of our team stopped playing catch-up,” Vidmar said. “I can’t base my performance always on someone else. Stop watching the other guy. Start doing things that are going to make a difference. Where I’m the standard — that’s not easy, but that’s the goal.”
The third principle — virtuosity — refers to the concept of doing something as well as it can be done.
“It means you take a skill or combination of skills — that may or may not be risky or original — but you figure out how to do it better,” Vidmar says. “So the judge says, ‘I’ve seen that done before, but not like that. I like the way he does that.’”
And that takes repetition, plain and simple.
“Practice makes permanent,” Vidmar said.