The importance of aspirational role models

I’ve loved watching the Olympics for as long as I can remember.  I can clearly recall sitting glued to the television in 1980 watching Nadia Comaneci roll out perfect 10’s in the gymnastics, convinced I’d just seen my future.  Sadly the school gymnastics unit that followed close on the heels of the Olympics revealed quite quickly that I had absolutely zero natural talent or ability, but I have to admit my ears did prick up on Saturday morning during the opening ceremony when I heard that Uzbekistan had a 41 year old female gymnast – maybe there was still a chance for a late run at Olympics glory!  Sascha soon shot that down though by pointing out that not only was I quite a bit older than 41, but I also haven’t competed in 6 prior Olympics like Oksana Chusovitina has…..

Watching both Simone Biles’ performance and the commentary about it on Twitter yesterday showed that this years Olympics will inspire dreams of Olympic gymnastics glory in a whole new group of little girls.

Image Credit Associated Press
Image Credit Associated Press

We experienced the aspirational power of the Olympics first hand four years ago when we were fortunate enough to attend the London Olympics.

Olympics 2012

The kids came home from the events each night and recreated them in our hotel rooms, Sam pondering the big decision of which event he would compete for Australia in after narrowing down his options to an eclectic mix including swimming, jujitsu, long jump, shot put and archery.

Sam swimming

The inspiration and dreams that the Olympics create are a really powerful illustration of how important aspirational role models are.  The saturation coverage (which I am glued to, I can’t imagine what our data usage is going to be like this month with all the time we are spending on the 7 Olympics app!) highlights both the incredible achievements of the athletes but the commitment required to deliver these not only by the athletes themselves but by those around them.  I’m a sucker for the back stories that share the details of this, the family involvement, the coaching, and the hard work and sacrifices that allow the athletes to achieve what they do.

I think one of the reasons I enjoy those back stories so much is because to me the life of an Olympic athlete is not unlike that of an entrepreneur in many ways.  A largely unseen back story of hard work and sacrifice for years, to then be celebrated as an ‘overnight success’ when that all effort comes to fruition.  There is no Olympics for entrepreneurs, but one of the lessons the Olympics can teach us is the importance of highlighting and celebrating entrepreneurial success stories with a goal of inspiring the entrepreneurial hopes and aspirations of the next generation.



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