Thursday, July 25, 2024

Are You an Olympian Thinker?

During the Olympic games I always stand in awe of the athletes who have found the courage to follow their passions and publicly push themselves beyond what most of us could ever imagine. Their dedication and discipline are amazing.

Some of the personal stories behind these athletes are even more amazing. For example, we’ve heard stories about some of the members of the gymnastics team from China, taken from their families at a very early age — as early as age three — to live in a boarding school for gymnasts. Family reunions took place only twice a year. Their years of sacrifice, dedication and discipline prepared them to become the world-class athletes they are today… and to take the team gold medal!

And there’s Laura Wilkinson, who ended China’s 16-year dominance of the Olympic women’s platform diving event and became the first American in 36 years to win gold in women’s diving. But what’s most amazing is that in March, Wilkinson broke three bones in her right foot, preventing her from practicing her full list of dives for seven weeks. During her recuperation period she used visualization and mental training techniques to practice her dives. Just three weeks before trials she was able to resume her physical training routine.

The Olympic games, however, have not just been about winning medals, but about courage and greatness. Eric Moussambani from Equatorial Guinea was one of those individuals. Unlike most Olympic athletes, Moussambani has not dedicated his life to training as a swimmer. He did not even learn how to swim until nine months ago. His training pool was the ocean, where he had to swim with the sharks. Moussambani came to Sydney with a focus on “doing something” for himself and his country. He was one of only four representatives in the Sydney Olympics from his small nation in Africa. When it was time to begin the race of his life in the 100-meter freestyle, the official said the standard “Take your marks,” and the two other swimmers in his heat false-started. Moussambani was the only swimmer left. Suffering from a sore shoulder, Moussambani struggled slowly for the last several meters of his solo race against himself and the clock. The Australian crowd went wild as they cheered him on to the finish. His determination prevailed, and he finished with an Olympic all-time slowest record of 1:52.72. Moussambani got out of the pool with something just as important as a medal — an Olympic memory.

The Marilyn King Story: The Birth of Olympian Technology(TM) In 1998 I attended a national conference where Olympic champion Marilyn King delivered the keynote address. As I’ve watched the Olympics over the past weeks, King’s address has echoed through my head.

For those of you who do not know or remember Marilyn King, she is a two-time Olympian (Munich, 1972 and Montreal, 1976) in the grueling five event Pentathlon (100 meter hurdles, shot put, high jump, long jump, 800 meter run). Her 20-year athletic career includes five national titles and a World Record, yet she points out that as a child she was an ordinary athlete, not particularly strong, fast, or quick to learn. She began training as a pentathlete during high school. When a student whom she felt was less skilled than she was sent to an Olympic Training Camp King decided, “If they think she can go to the Olympics, I can go to the Olympics.”

A car accident in 1979 rendered her unable to train physically for her third Olympic Team. Using only mental training techniques to prepare for the Olympic trials, she placed second at the trials for the 1980 Moscow Games. This extraordinary experience, and the resulting research that followed, led to her 17-year career as an expert in the field of exceptional human performance.

King discovered three essential elements of peak performance while becoming an Olympic champion. These elements are always present when ordinary people do extraordinary things. I share this with you because I believe they are essential to peak performance in ANY discipline — not just in sports. King tells us about Olympian Technology(TM):

The Olympian Thinking has vision at its core. The use of imagery is known in peak performance literature as “the master skill of high achievers.” We all use our imagination every day. However, most of us are unaware that what we envision affects every cell of our bodies and every aspect of our performance. The National Institute of Mental Health has confirmed this phenomenon in its studies.

While vision is critical for exceptional performance in all fields, passion is the origin and source of the tremendous energy and creativity that high achievers bring to their endeavors. With a real mission that matters, high achievers do not need willpower and discipline because they have “passion power.” Every day, they envision the dreams that they have set for themselves.

The essential third component is action, the plan and physical structures that guide the daily activities necessary to bring the passion and vision to fulfillment.

Marilyn King, founder of Beyond Sports, During her keynote address, King identified four types of people:

  • The Dreamer: One who has passion and a vision, but no action plan.
  • The Workaholic: One who has passion and an action plan, but no vision.
  • The majority of working America: One who has a vision and an action plan, but no passion in what they do.
  • The Olympian Thinker: One who has all three essential elements of peak performance – passion, vision, and an action plan to get there.
  • Which type are you? If you feel as inspired as I do by the passion, the vision, and the dedication of our Olympic athletes, I invite you to join me in thinking about how you can apply King’s three elements of Olympian Technology(TM) to your life. What will it take for you to be an Olympian Thinker?

    Kathy Paauw, President of Paauwerfully Organized, specializes in helping busy executives, professionals, and entrepreneurs declutter their schedules, spaces and minds. She is a certified business/personal coach and professional organizer. Contact her at or visit her website at and learn how you can Find ANYTHING in 5 Seconds – Guaranteed!

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