The other evening, while watching the Summer Olympics, I heard something that made my jaw drop. One of the expert commentators, a former gymnast, was elaborating on the difficulty of modern gymnastic routines. He suggested that the moves that earned Mary Lou Retton, and, before her, Nadia Comanechi perfect 10 scores in previous Olympic competitions, would likely not even have qualified them to compete on the final day with this year’s athletes.
I don’t think he said this to downplay their incredible feats. Mary Lou and Nadia were awesome when judged by the criteria of their era. They became instant international celebrities. They had their faces pasted on cereal boxes. Nadia had a song named after her. And yet, when comparing their skill level to the modern gymnasts on this year’s London stage, these two girls wouldn’t have been given a second look.
Now, I don’t know how much of this commentator’s statement is based upon opinion and how much is based upon fact, but, at the very least, it raises an interesting parallel.
How great do your proudest achievements from 10 years ago look now? While they may have seemed like a big deal back then, how would they rank today? While you may have won awards and industry respect at the time, how would they be seen in today’s climate?
Bruce Cockburn wrote a song with the lyric, “The trouble with normal is it always gets worse.” In our business, I disagree. I think that, by and large, our “normal” keeps getting better. The bar continues to be set higher. Technology has put all of us on a much more level playing field. If we want to learn more about anything, we simply type it into our magic computer box and go.
And, unlike world-class Olympic athletes, we aren’t limited by age and biology. We’re only limited by our willingness to adapt and learn.
We achieve long term success not just by keeping up with the competition as we grow – but actually setting the pace of that race. After all, if normal keeps getting better, so too should we.