On Your Mark, Get Set…

Image via Pixabay / TanteTati

At the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain, the stage was set for Derek Redmond as he was favored to win the gold in the 400 meter race. Four years earlier in the Seoul Olympic competition, Redmond was forced to pull out of the opening round of the 400 meters due to an injury to his Achilles tendon. In the 1991 World Championships, Redmond was a member of the British team that won the gold medal beating the American team and registering what was then, the second-fastest race time in 4×400 history. Although Redmond had undergone a number of operations due to injuries prior to the 1992 Olympics, he was recovering well, growing stronger and more confident. In the first round of the ‘92 Olympics, Redmond posted the fastest time and later won the quarter final. Finishing well in the semi-final round would put Redmond in position to compete for the gold.

At the sound of the gun, the racers sprinted out of the starting blocks and Derek Redmond was off to a good start. With his sights set on finishing strong, approximately 250 meters from the finish line, Redmond’s hamstring in his right leg suddenly tore sending him into excruciating pain and ending his dream of an Olympic gold medal in track and field. As he watched the other sprinters cross the finish line and medical personnel coming to his side, Redmond stood up and began hobbling toward the finish line himself. Struggling to make it, clearly disappointed and in agonizing pain, Redmond continued his journey toward his goal. Suddenly, out of the stands, a man began pushing his way through security onto the track and beside the hobbling sprinter. That man was Derek’s father, Jim Redmond who said to Derek, “You don’t have to do this,” to which Derek replied, “Yes, I do.” The elder Redmond said to his son, “Then we’ll finish this together.” Before a crowd of 65,000 spectators who were now on their feet, Derek Redmond finished the race with the man who had been by his side all of his life.

Disappointments Happen

How many times growing up and bemoaning an unfair situation did we hear a parent say, “Life’s not fair, get used to it.”? Disappointments are going to happen. You may lose a long-time key account, miss out on closing a big deal, lose an exemplary employee to a better opportunity, or miss out on a promotion you hoped for. During a time of disappointment, it’s important to keep from allowing anger, bitterness and resentment to set in. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

It’s kind of like the story of the successful businessman who was in his office one day when a friend stopped by and began lamenting about all the problems and challenges he was facing. The businessman drove his friend out to the local cemetery and as they surveyed all the headstones, the businessman said to his friend who was down and out, “These are the only people in this town that don’t have any problems… or opportunities.” 

Delays are not Denials

In his pursuit of a gold medal, Derek Redmond not only experienced the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, but he also experienced the frustration of delay. Injuries, surgeries, and healing time all caused there to be a postponement in his timeline. Most of what Derek had to deal with was out of his control.

In business, and in life, delays can happen that are out of our control, but occasionally, delays happen as a direct result of our actions. Indecision, fear of failure, and/or lack of preparation can cause delays in the results we hope to see. We must continue to move forward, work toward our goals and sometimes, we simply need to be patient. There is a reward for those who patiently endure. Aristotle is even quoted to have said, “Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”  

Demonstrate Courage and If Need Be, Lean on Others

Whether personally or professionally, life can sometimes deliver a staggering blow causing disappointment, delay, distress, discouragement, and defeat. While it can be difficult in that moment, we have to remain committed to achieving our goals and find the courage to continually work to cross the finish line. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “It’s hard to fail, but it’s worse to have never tried to succeed.” Redmond’s struggle in the 1992 semi-final later became the subject of one of the International Olympic Committee’s ‘Celebrate Humanity’ videos, which proclaimed “Force is measured in kilograms. Speed is measured in seconds. Courage? You can’t measure courage.”

When watching the video of this situation play out, you can’t help but to notice Derek’s initial reaction to his father’s attempt to help him. Derek can be seen pulling away until he recognized it was his father who was coming along side to help. Upon recognizing his father and his own need for assistance, Derek was willing to receive the support offered by his dad.

At times we all need a little help. Be willing to allow others to come along side and assist, encourage and challenge you to achieve your best.