After I spoke at the Unlocking Human Potential conference in Lausanne, Switzerland, I visited the Olympic Museum. If you get the opportunity to go, do. It’s an inspirational immersion into the power of competition to change the world. The timing of my visit was perfect because occurred on the cusp of the Winter Olympics in South Korea.
I am back in the United States now, and like many of you, I watch with bated breath as athletes compete for their countries. I smile at the roar of the crowd. I wish I was there. Few of them win, most don’t, yet I get swept up in their personal quest for greatness. I admire them for their grit and resilience. But the Winter Olympics are not the only game in town.
THE THINKING OLYMPICS
At about the same time, on the other side of the earth, there was another Olympic-sized competition underway. This endeavor was also the culmination of years of training, grit and determination. The crowd also cheered as the games began. There was one major difference: The athletes were not physically gifted, but intellectually so. They have achieved success by harnessing their brain power. Their Olympic flame burns internally to generate external results. They are cerebral trapeze artists, joyful engineers and crazy scientists fueled by imagination and led by their futuristic team captain, Mr. Elon Musk. The launch of the SpaceX heavy payload rocket from Cape Canaveral was the opening ceremony of the 2018 Thinking Olympics, and it began with a bang.
The Olympic Flame in Lausanne, Switzerland
If you didn’t see the launch video, you won’t believe it. (Note: I have created a video link timeline below, and I encourage you to watch at least the first one.) The commentators are animated, the suspense is spine-tingling, and the teams of engineers and staff are roaring – it is a spectacle. Think American Ninja Warrior meets Revenge of the Nerds. Each time the rocket launch surpassed another item on the “How to Crush Gravity” checklist, it was celebrated as a Gold Medal accomplishment. Because it was.
On top of that, Elon Musk added a touch of marketing flair by having the new rocket carry a Tesla with its own driver, Mr. Spaceman. You can watch him drive about in space live on YouTube. When I visited, there were 3,000+ of my best friends watching with me. The dashboard of the Tesla reads, “Don’t Panic”, a homage to the opening line from the remarkable book, A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
In an interview with The Sun, Musk said, “”I read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy which is quite positive I think and it highlighted an important point which is that a lot of times the question is harder than the answer. And if you can properly phrase the question, then the answer is the easy part.”
Musk and his teams ask different questions than the rest of us. They value talent that is undervalued elsewhere. (Side Note: One of my favorite compliments came during a global Gallup webcast about my strength of Ideation. Host Maika Leibbrandt said I had asked her questions that she’d never considered before. Click here to view it)
Finally, in an ultimate touch that can only come from technological advancements generated from the private sector (versus NASA, let’s say), the video ends with an invitation. I’ll paraphrase it for you. “If you’re a thinking rock star, SpaceX wants you!”
SpaceX demonstrated incredible technological prowess and then invited others to join the team. Any technologically-oriented, geeky young person would be hooked instantly for they’d like to earn their own mental Gold Medal. It’s a powerful, non-traditional approach to recruiting the best and brightest talent.
The 2018 Thinking Olympics are well underway. It’s a global competition that will increase in importance because the universe has no limits. However, many people do not know how they think. Do you think about the past? The future? Are you data driven? Do you want to know how you think?
One of the reasons I believe so strongly in the Clifton StrengthsFinder® is that it measures eight different ways we think to solve problems. For people like me – with a value proposition comprised mainly of thinking strengths – it is a godsend. I’m not socially gifted or particularly “emotionally intelligent.” I’ve always been a thinker first and a doer second. Being sent to my room was a reward, not a punishment. Knowing how to bring my unique blend of strengths to achieve my purpose is a lifelong journey. The StrengthsFinder assessment helps me by bringing its holistic approach to success, including what’s happening between my ears.
When I work with my STEM / technology clients, we harness untapped talent on the team – talent that we can’t see. Brainpower. Knowing this information enables leaders to put people in a role to be successful. That drives a competitive advantage because those teams are more likely to reach their full potential.
Perfection isn’t the goal. Progress is. One of the rockets failed to land from last week’s launch, and SpaceX’s best minds are already on it.
Looking forward five or ten years, will our competitive posture against China, Russia, and other tech-savvy countries, need to increase or decrease? What do you think? We need every advantage we can get so that we win the Thinking Olympics on a global scale.
As you read this, there are young people in your family, on your team, or in your classroom that are “unclaimed treasures” because they are quiet. Because when they think they don’t emote. When they don’t emote, others may assume they are stupid, aloof, or disengaged. They may be harder to get to know. When measured by today’s glamorous yardstick of Hollywood beauty and social status, these thinkers fall short (me included). I hope you’ll share this post with them as a reminder that success has many faces and many outcomes. Sit down with them and watch a couple of the videos. Let them hear and feel the energy generated by Elon Musk’s team. Remind them that the “seeds of possibility” originated in someone’s head. Let’s help them value themselves for being valuable so that they too can reach their full potential, and know that there are work environments that will embrace them for who they are – future thinking Olympians.
Join me and raise a glass of cheer to those thinkers, those navigators, those imaginators, those disruptors who are competing in the Thinking Olympics. They are carrying us to heights unknown. And the good news is that hitchhikers are welcome!
Maureen (Ideation | Strategic | Learner | Achiever | Individualization | Maximizer)
Do you have a child or teenager that is a thinker? I’ve created a 12-minute timeline of this amazing SpaceX video. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to enjoy it, any more than you have to be a skier to watch skiing at the Olympics!