Day Four : Cool Runnings

My 35 Day Life #ReThink explained through Hollywood Blockbusters.

Not once have I ever watched the final scene of Cool Runnings without getting emotional. At the end of the movie after (*spoiler alert*) the Jamaican Olympic bobsled team crashes a few hundred feet from the finish line, then picks up their bobsled, walks it across the finish line to a crowd of cheering fans and fellow competitors who they have won over with their perseverance - then the final caption reads “four years later they returned ... as equals”.

Acceptance is something we are all looking to achieve, in one way or another, every day. Anyone who tells you otherwise isn’t being honest with you, or maybe they’re not being honest with themselves. Lately our culture has put a lot of focus on accepting individuals for who they are, but there is also an acceptance of purpose that motivates us (or demotivates if it’s missing). 

In the case of the movie Cool Runnings, the Jamaican Bobsled Team was looking for acceptance as a legitimate competitor, a sanctioned organization, a respected peer. As harsh as it seems, in the movie they were only accepted in the end after they proved themselves by excelling at their sport, setting a world record, nearly winning an Olympic gold medal, and being resilient enough to literally pick themselves up and keeping moving forward after they failed to reach the finish line in their bobsled. They were able to gain acceptance as a team, acceptance of their purpose as a group. All the entrenched opposition to their team dissolved once they proved they could truly hold their own in competition.

But what would it look like if the opposition had doubled-down, continued to do what they believed was right by ‘defending’ the status-quo, holding back the team that was ‘different’. What if the other bobsled teams stood at the finish line during the final scene and laughed at the Jamaicans, chuckled amongst themselves and said “see, told you so”. What if the Olympic committee went back and made another rule change to exclude a team that they believed was a threat to the greater organization? Let’s take it a step further, what if the Jamaican team had WON a gold medal, brought in a new fan base, new sponsors, new focus on the sport - things that benefitted every team, the whole Olympic organization. And what if then, competitors still laughed, the central committee still tried to make them go away, and they were still not accepted as legitimate. Well... that’s what most of my days in the world of innovation have felt like lately, and it’s a big part of why I’m here doing a ReThink blog. 

Acceptance comes in many forms. Yes, it’s great to be free to express yourself, great to have friends and family who love you for who you are, great to feel valued regardless of your place in the world, what you do for a job, or how many times you fail. Not just great, but essential to have people around that will value you as a person no matter what! On the other hand many of us look to our leaders, our peers, our fellow members of society, for some form of feedback on the impact of our efforts - particularly when it comes to our careers. So how do we say “thanks for the acceptance me as a person” and at the time ask “why aren’t you clapping for my team ?!?”.

There is a scene in the movie where the coach, played by John Candy, storms into a room full of Olympic officials and declares as all leaders should “if you’re mad at me, take it out on me, banish me - but my guys have done everything you’ve asked and they’ve done it all while you laugh in their faces”. That always got me, even as a kid, that he was willing to take the hit for things he had done in the past in order to protect his team’s chance to compete. Honestly I’ve cracked a few eggs over my last few years making omelets, maybe it would be best for me to follow his lead ...

Tomorrow : Jerry Maguire

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  • Joseph Murphy