Innovation Lessons From the Sports Page:  Go, Katie Ledecky!

By Shlomo Maital


  What in the world can you learn about creativity and innovation from the New York Times Sports Page??

   It turns out, a lot. 

   Today’s newspaper has a wonderful piece by Karen Crouse, about Katie Ledecky, American swimmer competing in the world championships in Kazan, Russia.  She did an amazing feat yesterday.  She swam in the 1500 m. final,  and broke the world record. In fact, she SMASHED the world record, by 2.23 seconds!  She swam 30 laps,  1500 meters, in 15 minutes, 25.48 seconds.  About one minute per 100 meters.    Nearly two meters a second!

    And then?

     Only one hour later, she got back in the pool…and swam in the semi-finals for the 200 m. freestyle.  And somehow, qualified for the final. 

     Nobody has ever done that before, or even dreamed of trying it.     

     What’s her secret?

     “I wasn’t afraid to fail,” she said, adding, “I had nothing to lose.”

     And, digging a bit deeper:   Here is how Crouse explains it:

     Ledecky is the way she is partly because of a combination of her mental toughness and the unconditional love of her inner circle. Ledecky’s parents, Mary Gen and Dave, dispense hugs, not technical advice, leaving the post race analysis to Ledecky’s coaches. They support her swimming but do not smother her with expectations. Their view is that whatever she accomplishes in the water is but one strand in a rich life tapestry that includes academics and service and family.

     There you have it.  Mental toughness.  And the unconditional love of her inner circle.

     Our kids are inspired to do great things when we raise the bar high, give them high aspirations, support them… but always, always, stressing that failure is both inevitable and not a problem.  Go for it,  if you fail, we’re here, we love you, always will, we love you for who you are and not for the medals you win. 

    Go, Katie!   We’ve learned a lot from you.  Thanks.