In February, we were mesmerized by the talents showcased by the Olympic Athletes from around the world. I was in awe as I witnessed the skills and artistry displayed by the ice dancers, speed skaters, snowboarders, luge riders, skiers, men and women’s hockey teams, bobsledders and, yes, even the curlers. I envied the abilities these athletes demonstrated. I realized they had worked hard for four long years, just for this one chance to prove they were the best of the best—but I wondered how in the world they had become so good at their chosen trades.
As fascinating as all the venues were, there was no one particular sport that grabbed my attention more than any other. Instead, there were two things that stood out. The first was the sportsmanship, comraderies and positive interactions among the contestants. While they all wanted that elusive gold medal, they all also wanted their peers to excel. The unity of the Olympic family was a thing of beauty. Often, I noted leaders in these competitions watching a main competitor speeding down a slope, halfpipe or run—and seeing that person wipeout. Never once did I see those leaders, now assured of a gold medal, exult in the fact that their stiffest competition had been taken out of the race. Instead I saw them cringe and look genuinely sorry for the fallen competitor. Yes, they fiercely wanted to win and, yes, they fiercely wanted to beat the best so they could say they honestly deserved the gold medal, but they never cheered when that opponent fell. Why? Because they appreciated the training, work ethic and devotion to which all those athletes had devoted themselves for four long years—just to have one opportunity to vie for an award that would proclaim them as the top dog of their sport.
What stood out equally as well was the way these elite athletes reacted when faced with high winds, brrr-type cold, equipment failures, or a perceived unfair advantage given to another. Unlike us who, in our daily lives, hear and may use a myriad of excuses for why we missed out on a promotion or other opportunity, why we failed to get the grade we thought we deserved, why we didn’t receive proper recognition for our efforts, why we didn’t make the team, etc., never once did I observe an athlete spout the “what-ifs” or “if-onlys.” They accepted their plight with dignity and stated their resolve to correct the problem in time for the next Olympic Games, four long years down the road. What great
Following the Olympics telecast one night, while ruminating on these observations, I happened on a completely different program. But it, too, reminded me of what I had just witnessed. It was a program about Adam and Eve. We all know the story of how God told them not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, how Eve did it anyway, then got Adam to do it, and how God caught them. Remember how, when caught, Adam told God it was all his fault, that Eve should not be blamed, and that all punishment should be administered solely on him? Oh wait, wait—that’s not how the story went, is it? No, Adam told God it wasn’t his fault, that it was Eve who should get the blame. In fact, Adam told God that he was innocent and that it was the fault of “that woman that you gave me.” That’s right, Adam put the blame right back on God. He denied all responsibility. And, darn, isn’t that what we all do?
Ever confront yourself wondering
why you didn’t get that bid out on time? Why that clause got left out of the contract you wrote? Why you didn’t attend that conference on the main subject about which you need more education? Why you haven’t taken those classes and obtained that degree that is keeping you from a job advancement? Why you haven’t attended those classes that teach you how to pass certification tests? Why you aren’t assuming a leadership role in your local, regional or national NAEP or other procurement organization?
Whether or not you’ve confronted yourself, let’s do it now. Are you trying to be the best you can be? Are you asking your coaches, peers, managers and NAEP leadership for help to make you more competitive with others in your field? Are you exerting sufficient energy and devoting the necessary time to help you grasp the “gold medal” when the competition starts for a promotion or new job opportunity? The ultimate question is whether your school regards you as having gold-medal potential that just needs to be groomed—or as Adam, full of excuses as to why you aren’t in the competition at all. It’s your choice: Do a check up from the neck up and change what you’re doing, so you can join the competition that’s trying to take advantage of the next opportunity. Or simply keep practicing all of the Adam-like excuses to prove that your lot in life isn’t getting any better because, “It ain’t my fault!”
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me help you go for the gold!
Bob Ashby, C.P.M., CPCM, is retired from his position as Director of Purchasing and Contracts for the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where he also served as an Adjunct Professor in the Management Department. Bob has been active in NAEP since 1997. In 2006 he received NAEP’s Distinguished Service Award and in 2008 he won the Mentor of the Year Award. In 2009 NAEP renamed the award in his honor to the Bob Ashby Mentor of the Year Award.