Winning Against The Odds:  Olympic Imperfection

The odds are against you. With all your imperfections, odds are: Someone else is more qualified, your marriage won’t last, your new business will fail, the publisher will reject you, you won’t win the election, or you’ll never make the olympic team.

“If we do what is necessary, all the odds are in our favor.”
~ Charles Buxton

Better to save your energy, and your pride.  Shoot for something more realistic.  Stay where you are.  Stick to what you know.  Where you are now, is not that bad, after all. Calculating the odds is prudent, but not always helpful.

Imperfect People, Winning Against the Odds

The Wall Street Journal article, Imperfect Bodies Chase Gold lifts up numerous, interesting examples of imperfect bodies, beating the odds. These athletes just weren’t cut out for their sport of choice. Until they were. Take hurdling star Lolo Jones, who decided it was time to bobsled.

When she first met Todd Hays, Olympic coach in 2012 he was skeptical: “I have her two chances to make the team, slim and none.” Hays says of their first encounter. To Hays, Jones was strong, but in the wrong way for bobsledding. Her muscles were long and sinewy and lacked the explosiveness to push a 375-pound sled.” Until it did.

The Wall Street Journal now reports, “countless squats and clean-and- jerks have given Jones thighs like tree trunks, a bulky rump reminiscent of a NFL running back and the shoulders of a lumber jack.” Not what I’m going for (don’t worry, Marcus), but it’s her dream…so game on.

Jones knows the odds are against her, which is all part of the fun:

“Yes, it’s my first Olympics,” Fenlator shared in a recent interview.” Yes, I’m an underdog or whatever you want to say. But I’m here on a mission. And I have expectations to do well. Thank goodness for expectations.

Will Lolo win? Perhaps. Not sure it matters. What would be far sadder is if she never chased her dreams.  No one wins a race they never start. Where will your imperfection take you?

Your Turn: Share your stories of winning despite “imperfection.”  What race are you now running against the odds?
Filed Under:   Authenticity & Transparency, Communication, Results & Execution
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.

Join The Conversation

What People Are Saying

Ali Anani (@alianani15)   |   17 February 2014   |   Reply

Karin- imperfections provide opportunities to excel. My handwriting was and still is poor. My drawing is equally lousy. The idea that changed my course in life was I don’t need to write if “something” else did it for me. That was the trigger for me to take courses in computer science when it was in its infancy.

We are limited by our thoughts more than by physical imperfections.

bill holston   |   17 February 2014   |   Reply

Love that Ali, I have terrible handwriting as well. A few years back, I fell from a ladder and shattered my right wrist. I started journalling left handed. Now 5 years later I still do, The injury helped me develop a skill I didn’t have before. And it’s more legible!

Ali Anani (@alianani15)   |   17 February 2014   |  

Bill, I love my comment because it resulted in your great and moving response. A very great example of jumping over hurdles

letsgrowleaders   |   17 February 2014   |   Reply

Ali, Thanks so much. What a great example. The “cure” can open more possibilities than the imperfections. I’m have ridiculous hand writing, but I can type like the wind ;-)

Steve Borek   |   17 February 2014   |   Reply

Dancing in front of hundreds of strangers was an example of winning without worrying whether or not it was perfect or not.

I’m also working on something else. I can’t talk about it publicly just yet. Though, I’m confident, things will turn out just the way they’re suppose to.

Thanks for this post Karin. Timely.

Ali Anani (@alianani15)   |   17 February 2014   |   Reply

Steve- a dancing with joy example.

letsgrowleaders   |   17 February 2014   |   Reply

Steve, So exciting! I’m looking forward to when you can share.

Steve Borek   |   17 February 2014   |   Reply

Maybe I’ll share over a glass of wine!

bill holston   |   17 February 2014   |   Reply

The first one of your columns I read was about humility. Humility is an attribute I pray for daily. It comes from an acknowledgement of flaws, and helps me to be patient with others, who are imperfect just as I am.

letsgrowleaders   |   17 February 2014   |   Reply

Bill, Thanks so much. I pray for humility too. I’m such a believer of the need for leaders to have confident humility.

Ariana   |   17 February 2014   |   Reply

Very inspiring, thanks Karin!
A few years ago I successfully organized a community engagement campaign for a collaborative initiative to create a net zero energy district. Many people told me I would fail, that I wasn’t experienced enough and didn’t have the necessary resources. It was hard, sometimes I thought quitting would be easier, but I persevered. The doubters ended up fueling my dedication; now they brag about my work. I draw on that experience every time I face an impossible situation.

Ali Anani (@alianani15)   |   17 February 2014   |   Reply

Ariana- I think you could write a screenplay on your story. You have the theme and the hook.

letsgrowleaders   |   17 February 2014   |   Reply

Ariana, Great story. I’m with you… there’s nothing that can fire me up more than someone telling me I won’t succeed.

Terri Klass   |   17 February 2014   |   Reply

Our imperfections are what fuel our passion to achieve great heights. I also think if we are willing to work hard and overcome our flaws, we will excel in any field we choose.

When I pursued my MBA I was concerned that it was too analytical and technical a degree for my people oriented personality. I worked extra hard and learned to overcome my fears of numbers and analysis. I was committed and was able to graduate with a great job in a bank that required those mathematical skills. I was able to combine those business skills and people skills to fuel my eventual career.

Thanks Karin!

Ali Anani (@alianani15)   |   17 February 2014   |   Reply

Terri- life takes us into different swings. Never in math I got a mark less than 100% and including my university courses. However; I didn’t have the passion for math. My PhD work was 50% math as well. Later, I decided to study the application of science in human behavior. There is where I am. You did the opposite. A story to tell

letsgrowleaders   |   17 February 2014   |  

Ali, I hold my nose every time I have to do math…. but I do it ;-)

letsgrowleaders   |   17 February 2014   |   Reply

Terri, Great story. What a wonderful way to round out your expertise. That’s a powerful combination.

LaRae Quy   |   17 February 2014   |   Reply

This is such an inspirational post, Karin. It’s clearly illustrates how importnat self-talk is when it comes to creating the mental toughness we need to move toward our dreams and goals.

Now that I know the background, I will follow Lolo more closely!

letsgrowleaders   |   17 February 2014   |   Reply

Thanks, LaRae! I believe the bobsledding is tomorrow. I am intrigued to see how she does ;-)

Jon Mertz   |   17 February 2014   |   Reply

Imperfections are motivations to learn and grow. Being human leaders mean we are imperfect, and we always need to engage ourselves to understand our possibilities and then pursue them. Thanks, Karin!

letsgrowleaders   |   17 February 2014   |   Reply

Thanks, Jon. Very well said… engage ourselves to understand the possibilities. Love it!

Bill Benoist   |   17 February 2014   |   Reply

When I look back, the odds were definitely stacked against me growing up. I was hanging around the wrong crowd, doing the wrong things.

Something clicked inside around the age of 16, so even though I was failing high school, I took advantage of a program that allowed me to take two evening courses at the local community college. What a change in self-esteem. I left continuation high school after passing a proficiency exam at 17 and entered college full-time.

Today, I have a successful career in business and overall, a wonderful life.

letsgrowleaders   |   17 February 2014   |   Reply

Bill, I think you turned out just wonderful. Glad it clicked!

Alli Polin   |   18 February 2014   |   Reply

When I was in college, a Sociology major applying for competitive jobs in a Big Six consulting firm, other students laughed at me. How could I possibly think I could compete with the kids from Wharton? Not only did I land the job I wanted in Change Management but also had a successful career there for many years to come. You never know what you can do until you try…

Fantastic post, Karin!

Ali Anani (@alianani15)   |   18 February 2014   |   Reply

Alli (may be I should add an l to my name)- very true and if we don’t try we assume. Assumptions can be very detrimental.

Alli Polin   |   18 February 2014   |  

I’m with you, Ali! Especially when we assume that something truly is impossible.

letsgrowleaders   |   19 February 2014   |   Reply

Alli, Terrific story. Some day I’ll have to talk with you about how you sold yourself in… I’m sure that would be helpful for others to hear.