Setting a World Record!
By Scott Koepf
September 11, 2012 11:45 PM
Setting a world record means you are the best there is and the best that has ever been—at least at that point in time. It’s an extraordinary achievement to say the least. As I noted in my last column, I attended the United States Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore. In that environment of extremely high pressure, I witnessed a world record performance in the decathlon.
Most athletes determine their gifts are sprinting, long distance, hurdles or throwing really heavy balls and Frisbees (discus) and then work for dominance in that one genre. But there are those rare specimens who are simply outstanding in all of these divergent disciplines. For these elite athletes a unique event was created called the decathlon. From sprint to high jump to pole vault to shot put to a distance run, they compete in 10 separate events. Each event takes a completely different physical skill, and unique technique that must be mastered.
Not only does this combination of skills make the decathlon different; it is also different in the way decathletes compete. Instead of awarding points for first, second, etc., in each event, every athlete is awarded a preset point value based on their individual performances. Since the decathlon is designed to recognize consistency across all disciplines, this means that an athlete might not actually take first place in any single event, yet win the competition based on overall points scored.
In many ways this is how all of us in the retail travel industry should compete. We are not measured by comparison to each other but to our own performance. This was brought home to me at the Olympic Trials when the final of the 10 events took place in the decathlon.
When the 1,500-meter (a little less than a mile) run was about to begin, it was announced that a new world record was possible. The pressure on the potential new star of track and field was intense. The entire stadium was made aware of the time Ashton Eaton had to beat in order to set the record, which was two seconds faster than he had ever run it before!
Eaton’s first two laps of four were right on pace, but in the third lap he slowed down and that meant the final lap would determine his place in history. As he came around the final curve it was shocking to see the runner who was far in the lead turn around and cheer on his competitor while another runner kept pushing the pace for Ashton. When Ashton crossed the finish line he not only broke the world record, but also took first place in that event. Two other runners stepped out of the limelight to help another make history. It was an awe-inspiring moment.
In this same way we need to celebrate the successes of our fellow retailers. I guarantee that all of the other decathletes who were in that competition were inspired by the achievement they witnessed. We should also be inspired, not jealous of others’ achievements. It was clear that while Ashton will be remembered for years to come, the actions of the other decathletes will also have lasting impact.
In the following comment, Billy Mills, an Olympic track hero from years ago, reveals the approach we all should take into business every day. “The ultimate is not to win, but to reach within the depths of your capabilities and compete against yourself to the greatest extent possible,” Mills said. “When you do that, you have dignity. You can walk about with character and pride no matter what place you happen to finish in.”
I have often thought of that as we celebrated the medalists at the London Olympics. To just be competing at the Olympics is an extraordinary achievement. Each athlete in attendance pushed themselves to the maximum of their capability. As travel retailers, while reaching for the gold is admirable, as Billy Mills said, we need to compete against ourselves and reach for the best we can be!
Scott Koepf, vice president of sales at host travel agency Avoya Travel/American Express, is a veteran travel industry executive who is considered an expert in sales training. This column is adapted from one appearing in the September issue of Agent@Home magazine.