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Donít Settle for Silver

For too long Canadians have lived under the shadow of our neighbour to the South. Americans do not want to be second best in anything and the only colour they dream about and reward is gold. Canadians on the other hand tend to downplay our expectations and far too often this has meant that we are willing to settle for silver and as a result the top prizes elude us. This applies directly to sports but I believe it has infiltrated our business and workplace thinking as well. At least at the Olympics level that might just be about to change.

Brian W. Pascal
The Canadian Olympic Committee launched Own the Podium 2010 as a challenge to Canadians to step up and show the world its very best. It was a partnership of all of Canadaís national winter sports organizations, their funding bodies, and the organizing committees for both the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and Paralympics. Its goals were to help Canada win the most medals in a winter Olympic games and to assist Canadaís Paralympic athletes to place in the top three nations for gold medals in 2010 in Vancouver.

According to a national survey conducted by the HRG Research Group Canadians agreed with these goals and want to help achieve them. 73 percent of Canadians supported the Own the Podium ambitions to make Canada the top medal finisher and to be in the top three for Paralympics gold medals in Vancouver. That says to me that Canadians are tired of settling for silver and now want to go straight for the gold.

So, what was the result? Although, we didn't succeed in achieving the stated goal of winning the most medals overall in the 2010 Winter Games, Canada did succeed in winning the most gold medals ever in a Winter Olympics. I was thrilled and not just because I am a patriotic Canadian. I was thrilled for our athletes because they symbolize the breakthrough that Canada needs to make within our borders and around the world. To finally shake off the notion that being second-best is a good place to be. My real hope is that Canadaís athletes will inspire the rest of us, in commerce, business, and organizations to move past our personal best and to aim for the gold in all other aspects of our life in Canada.

There is a great spirit of invention and entrepreneurship in Canada that needs that inspiration if they are going to reach that goal. Yes they will need additional support and a range of tax breaks and incentives from government at all levels, that goes without saying. But even more than that they need to be supported and challenged by the citizens of this country to think and act bigger on the world stage.

That doesnít mean that Canada has to be the biggest player in world markets. With a population of thirty three million, thatís not going to happen when we have to compete against countries like the U.S.or China. But we can be the best at what we do and encourage a culture of excellence that never accepts second best when with a little more effort we could be seen and recognized as the cream of the crop.

In order to get there we will also have to alter our thinking about success in Canada and nurture and celebrate our success stories. Far too often we have ignored the few Canadian companies that have managed to reach the top of the game at home or abroad. Not only that but we often criticize or critique that success as if we want to pull all those leaders back to the pack with the rest of us. Itís time to break out of this shell of fake modesty and humility that we have collectively created and maintained. It doesnít serve us anymore, if it ever did, and has held us back from really achieving our potential.

Striving for excellence also has to be transferred down to all other areas of Canadian life as well. Why canít our doctors and scientists be world renowned and celebrated? Why canít students be encouraged to not just get a degree and a job but to become world class experts in their field? Why canít Canadian workers be expected to be the most efficient and productive workers in the world?

The answer is that we can, if we make our minds up to it. If Canadian athletes are being encouraged to not just do their best but aim for the gold medal then why canít the rest of us be asked to do the same? Itís time for Canadians to stop settling for silver or bronze and go for the gold.


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