As the 2016 Summer Olympic Games come to a close, Melissa and Michele sit down to discuss the highlight of Michele's career thus far, training Team Canada.
Q. You trained Canada’s Olympic team before the Vancouver Winter Olympics. What was the nature of the training?
A. Yes, I did. It was the highlight of my career... so far! We were holding the Olympics in our homeland and everyone was very committed to making sure that we had a great medal showing. The Canadian Olympic Committee had established "Own the Podium" and L(earn)2 was called in to help them tap into that vision as the 2010 games approached. We ran experiential learning exercises for two years prior to the games for the athletes and their coaches. What a privilege. The focus was on how they defined a gold medal life and not just a gold medal moment. It was a very profound experience to be in the midst of such a committed, focused group of people.
Q. What does it mean to strive for a gold medal life?
A. What we were able to do was have the athletes broaden their perspective. A gold medal moment lasts, I don’t know, 120 seconds on the podium as the national anthem is playing. What the Olympic team really connected to was that’s two minutes of my life, but if I were to get a gold medal for my life how would I show up every day? Who do I need to be? What decisions do I need to make on a daily basis in order to be awarded a gold medal for my life? In essence, the target and the wake we create as we move toward that target. We had them connect to that bigger picture versus I want to win a gold medal, or for us mere mortals, I want to be a vice president, I want to make $400,000, I want to be the CEO of a company etc. Those individual targets are outcomes of the choices we make. If I make gold medal choices every day of my life it will lead me to being a gold medal athlete. It will lead me to being a CEO. It will lead me to finding a cure for cancer. But it’s the culmination of the little decisions - how we choose to show up every day and honour our value system - that regardless of whether we get the gold, the silver, the bronze, allows us to be proud of who we are. A gold medal life is being proud of who you are.
Q. How do you inspire some of the most inspiring people in the world? Was it a little nerve-racking?
A. Certainly, I mean you’re in a room with some of the best athletes in the world but the best part about my job is that I don’t need to inspire people. I need to have them tap into what they find inspirational about themselves. My job is to pull away the curtain and have them connect to what’s possible inside them. I don’t create the reflection in the mirror. I reflect back what is already there.
Q. Why do we find Olympic athletes so inspiring?
A. Because they remind us about what’s possible. Life gets busy. There’s a lot to do every single day. We have a lot of pieces of information coming at us. We have a lot of people coming at us. And their ability to focus and to hone in on what they really want, the specificity of that medal winning performance; we start to think, hard work and perseverance really works! I wonder where I can do that? We’re human beings and one of the most baseline questions that we ask all the time is, what about me? So, when we see people performing we either say, well I could never do that, and we feel bad about ourselves. Or we think, wow! I wonder if I just made some different choices what I would be capable of doing? It taps into possibility.
Q. My next question was going to be how can we all be as inspiring as Olympic athletes? I guess the answer would be to recognize that we have that ability within ourselves.
A. Right, and to broaden our perspective. To put our best foot forward in whatever living a gold medal life means to us. So many of us get caught up in benchmarking ourselves against others but what we need to remember is that we are all unique and my gold medal life is going to be different from your gold medal life. The most profound responsibility that we have is to honour our definition of what a gold medal life means to us. That’s our value system. So, who am I? What do I stand for? What drives me? And, in the day-to-day, honour those decisions. Those small decisions culminate in each of us having the ability to have a gold medal life, and a gold medal moment.
Q. What was the response to the training?
A. Each person responds differently. But I think for the athletes in particular it was the idea that it’s much bigger than that podium moment. We all remember Alex Bilodeau and the skiing and that incredible moment with his brother. One of the things that defined a gold medal life for him was how he treated his brother. The respect, love and honour that he showed his brother, that was just as inspirational for the country as how he performed on the ski hill.
Q. You were training the athletes but did you learn anything from them in the process?
A. It intensified my belief and understanding of what having a very specific and focused idea of success can do. The more focus you bring to your idea of success, the more powerful it is. For our athletes, it’s very defined. They think about what it’s going to be like to stand on that podium. What it’s going to be like to hear our national anthem. What it’s going to be like to wave to all of the Canadian flags in the crowd. What it’s going to be like to talk to their family about how they are the best in the world. Their relentless focus in all aspects of their life really drove home the power of having a vision and living that vision every day. And what was incredible about these athletes, in conjunction with their coaches because their support network really allows them to be who they are, they create this vision of what they want to do and then they surround themselves with people who enable them to do that. I think that’s important. We need teams to help us be successful. If we want to be spectacular we need to create a team that supports that vision. We don't do it alone.