What I Learned from Mikaela: It’s the Journey, Not the Destination

By Shlomo   Maital 


  Mikaela Shiffrin is 18 years old, the youngest American skier to be a World Cup champion.  She lives in Colorado.   She could win medals at the Sochi Olympics.  According to the New York Times sportswriter Bill Pennington, Mikaela has an unusual life plan, one we can all learn from.

   “I will want to win,” she said. “But the result of the race will not motivate me. I can honestly say that I am motivated by improvement, not results.  That’s a core principle. 

    Her parents (her dad is an anesthetist, her mom  and dad were competitive skiers in college) recount that in Vail, Colorado, they once invited Mikaela, then very young, to come ski in the ‘back bowls’.  But Mikaela declined.  “No. I want to stay on the racecourse and train.  I’m working on my pole plants.  I want to get better every day.”

     Here is what I personally learned from Mikaela.  I want to be an excellent educator, teaching innovation at a high level.  But I should focus on the journey, not on the destination.  Each course I teach, each workshop I deliver for managers, I need to ask, how can I do this better? How can I deepen the experience of my students, and give them useful take home tools?  And at the end of each course, I need to evaluate the ‘gradient’ or ‘slope’ – did I improve? Or get worse? 

    If you come to focus on the process, on the journey and not solely on the result, and if you can create a positive learning gradient, improving all the time, ultimately you will achieve excellence.  And you will enjoy life while doing so.  Because each improvement, each notch on the ‘learning slope’ becomes a tangible achievement.  You don’t need to wait a decade for Carnegie Hall. 

     Remember that tired joke? “ How do you get to Carnegie Hall?  Practice.” 

      How about, instead…. “ How do you get to Carnegie Hall?   Just keep improving, every day…   and in every way.  And enjoy!”