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Life lessons from Canada's four-year Olympian

  • Rob Wise
  • |
  • Jul 22, 2020
Life lessons from Canada's four-year Olympian

Rob Wise is an MBA candidate and chartered accountant with a passion for finding creative solutions to challenging problems. Rob’s goals at Ivey include developing his analytical skills while gaining an understanding of effective leadership. Prior to Ivey, Rob worked as a Financial Analyst at a tech company. The blog below outlines the key takeaways from Canadian Olympian Jeremiah Brown who spoke to MBA students during Ivey’s MBA Leadership Day organized by the Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership.

You cannot make it on your own

Jermiah Brown’s dream of winning an Olympic gold medal in rowing started with a coach who believed in him. As a former hockey and football player, Brown understood the value of teamwork, and was willing to do the work necessary to be successful. But without the right guidance, making the jump from football player to rower would have been a nearly impossible task. Brown and his coach’s relationship was built on honesty, with Brown comically recounting how he blurted out how he wanted to win Olympic gold at their first encounter.

Brown reiterates the importance of a team when he describes his first ever experience on the national rowing team. Trying to do too much, Brown ends up slowing down the boat and expects to be scolded by his teammates. Instead, they lift him up by showing how important he is to the team, and the teams’ collective Olympic dream.

Who you decide to surround yourself with and the environment you put yourself in can be pivotal in your success, taking you further than you could on your own. Coaches, mentors, and teammates are all important puzzle pieces in our successes and can support us in achieving more than we could alone.

Growth is not linear

Brown notes that as an athlete, you feel pressure to grow and improve at a constant rate. This often presents us with what Brown describes as “exit opportunities”. Sometimes it may feel as though you are not getting any closer to achieving your goal, and your time would be better spent doing something else. It is at this point where you must reflect on your goals, refocus your efforts and find a way to keep improving. This lesson is applicable to many facets of life – school, work, family. Brown acknowledges this and uses a clever rowing analogy to connect it to life. To paraphrase, in rowing just as in life, you are able to look back and see what got you where you are now, but unfortunately you aren’t able to see what obstacles lie ahead. It does not matter if you stay on the current route or give up and choose a different path, there will be obstacles and difficulties. Showing resilience, when faced with adversity, even if it is just a small step forward, is what will help us get back on track.

It does not get easier, but it does get more familiar

Brown’s Olympic success story is undoubtedly impactful, bringing back many emotions about my own athletic endeavours. What really resonated with me is not the success, but the way Brown has handled setbacks. Brown shares many details about his personal life: having a child at 18, a relationship breakdown and post-Olympic struggles are all discussed. His attitude towards these challenges can be summed up in one quote, “The greatest gifts in life shows up as challenges we are not ready for”. Brown’s story shows us that resilience and ability to navigate new challenges are skills that will continue to serve us throughout our lives and careers. Everyone has a different set of challenges that life throws at them, but how you handle these challenges will ensure continued success.