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Olympic Greatness: Getting a Lift From Your Rivals

Rubbing Elbows
They understand the value of association.

I love the Olympics as much for the competition as for the human drama and storylines. Imagine working four years to get two minutes to prove it was worth it! But at the just-completed games, one story stood out.

Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir, Meryl Davis & Charlie White

When Meryl Davis and Charlie White took the medal podium at the Winter Games in Sochi to receive gold for their record-setting performance in ice dancing, they became the first Americans in Olympic history to win the event by earning the highest composite score ever recorded in their sport at that level. The duo beat out second place by nearly five points.

In the whirlwind of interviews and media appearances that followed, Davis and White graciously credited many people with their success—their parents, their coach, their teammates, and their fans. They also had a special and sincere word of thanks for their friends and rivals next to them on the medal stand, Canadian ice-dancing pair Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who won gold at the 2010 Torino Games and took home silver in Sochi.

If you are having trouble identifying a clear source of competition in your current work situation, check out a biography of someone who<br />
has been successful in your field and challenge yourself to try to meet that individual’s standards of performance as they apply to your own goals.

Virtue and Moir train at the same facility and under the same coach (Marina Zoueva) as Davis and White, which means that these two couples—arguably the best two ice dancing pairs in the world—are constantly pushing one another towards higher levels of Greatness. Though each team has its own distinct style, when one pair raises the bar by mastering a new trick or nailing difficult footwork in a step, the other team works that much harder to rise to the new level, as well.

There are frustrations at times, but there is also tremendous respect between the ice dancers, as was evidenced in White’s public acknowledgment of the influence Virtue and Moir. By regularly training and competing side-by-side, the American and Canadian ice dancing teams have not only pushed one another forward, but have actually helped to lift their entire sport to a new plane of athleticism, skill, and artistry.

Tips from the Great ones

Who pushes you to improve daily—not just through encouragement but also through their own success? Rivalry does not have to be unfriendly nor is it necessarily a sign of discord. When there is a healthy respect between the two parties, the result is often a higher level of accomplishment by both.

In situations where we are faced with intimidating competition, we have two choices: We can either give up hope that we will never be as good, or we can work to lift our game to match (or exceed) the success of our rivals. Which mindset is Greater?

I have been up against tough competition all my life.  I wouldn't know how to get along without it. – Walt Disney

It is our responsibility, therefore, to seek out not only opportunities but also people who will spark growth. When we willingly surround ourselves with the best people, it is almost impossible not to become better ourselves; as the old saying goes, “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

Remember: Greatness begets Greatness. No matter how good you already are, when you embrace the chance and the challenge to rub elbows with Great winners, you will find yourself becoming Greater as a result.

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About Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated, 11-time New York Times best-selling author, leadership expert and executive coach.

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