The title of this post is a quote from Jessie Diggins, a US cross-country skier who, with Kikkan Randall, recently won the Olympic gold medal in the team sprint event for cross-country skiing. If you didn’t happen to see this during the Olympics, here’s a link to a video of the final push that led to the gold. Go watch it, really, it’s worth it, even if you’ve already seen it.
When I saw this the first time, I literally cried, and I’ve watched it many, many times since, and tear up pretty much every time. I’m still not entirely sure of the reasons, because this Olympics was one of the first times I’ve even watched cross-country racing, so I hadn’t been following the athletes or known much about them.
Certainly, I was happy for them and amazed at their accomplishment, skill, dedication, and will to win. All of those things, for sure, but something deeper, too. That deeper truth the performance revealed for me occurred to me later, when Jessie published a blog post recollecting her Olympic experience and what I consider the theme of her post: “nobody ever accomplishes anything alone.”
She writes about her teammates, coaches, wax techs, ski suppliers, and many others. Sometimes when I hear athletes or others in the limelight expressing thanks and gratitude, I make the mistake of hearing those words as platitudes, what they’re supposed to say. But Jessie’s words ring so true and from the heart that they shine a new light for me on the gratitude of all athletes. I’ll never hear those words of thanks and gratitude from any athlete the same way again. Those words are true.
This point was driven home for me again by a blog post entitled “Standing on the shoulders of giants” by Hansi Johson, who I follow because he’s involved in the mountain biking scene in Duluth. Turns out Hansi also was involved in cross-country skiing in Minnesota, which is where Jessie is from (specifically, Afton, MN), and knew lots of people from there and so he wrote this, which really stirred me as well:
So while Jessie and Kikkan put that pedal down and made the impossible possible I saw those faces of old friends and heroes skiing past in my mind.
I thought of old high school teammates, I thought of past Minnesota State Meet Races I was in and the athletes the nordic ski athletes Minnesota turned out to the world. . . . I watched them all work and toil and succeed but never quite succeed at the highest Olympic level. Eventually those folks though become the coaches and the mentors and they reached down to pick up other athletes. They kept pushing forward, they did not lose the dream, they just passed it on and on to the next kids in line. . . .
Incredible to think about those that came before and what it truly takes to create champions . . . . So for me while Jessie and Kikkan were draping the American Flag around themselves I had another thought. Some of my oldest friends were involved in this whole thing right that moment and if I was moved to tears, man they must be overwhelmed with this moment.
And there it is. Hansi saw not only the history but the beauty of the present moment extending well beyond Jessie and Kikkan to all those who came before, all those who helped them get there, and all those who would come after, as well. Truly, “no one ever accomplishes anything alone.”
Far from the world of cross-country ski racing, but still very relevant to me as the CEO of FBS, I can only hope that, like Jessie, I can bring grace and gratitude for all the contributions from our past, present, and future. With our 40 year anniversary, these thoughts are running through my head more frequently and I want to internalize them every day in honor of all of our employee owners, past, present, and future.