Lessons from “Cool Running” (Peace be the journey)

“Cool Running”, a film based on the true story of a Jamaican bobsled team starring John Candy as their Coach, provides a great illustration of the habit of persistence and how it is central to other habits essential for success.

It starts with a dream, an athlete dreaming of running for Olympic gold. The dream is dashed and he has to find another way to get Olympic gold, which reveals an interesting point – his goal, his Definite Major Purpose (DMP), is Olympic gold, not necessarily running to achieve it, otherwise he would have persisted at running!

Four athletes come together for a common purpose, a Mastermind Alliance (MMA), but this is a disparate group, each individual with his own DMP. The one who calls himself Yul (after Brynner) just “wants to get off this stinking island”. A MMA has a common purpose but not necessarily a DMP common to all the members.

A lesson in leadership comes from the seating in the bobsled. Being the driver means that being “the first to show up and the last to leave”, for practice sessions, for team meetings, is a prerequisite. As is attitude – “Does “give up” mean anything to you?” “Not a thing”.

And people laughed – four black Jamaicans and a washed out coach, what’s not to laugh at? But people are always afraid of what’s different. Anyone who’s in network marketing will relate to that.

More on DMPs from the Mamma’s boy whose DMP (though he didn’t know it at the outset) was to free himself from his old blueprint – his Father’s plan for him. When they laughed at Yul because the picture of where he wanted to live turned out to be Buckingham Palace, Mamma’s boy came to his rescue – “All he has to do is to know what he wants and work hard for it and if he wants it bad enough he’ll get it”.

Coach admonishes the team after tempers flew in the bar – “We’re not winning a popularity contest, they hate us, and I didn’t come here to get my butt whipped”. This is the turning point; from here they all arise at “butt whipping time” for early practice sessions and finally have a true plan of action (POA) and a common purpose (MMA); the soundtrack song, appropriately, “Rise Above It”.

The last few lessons come thick and fast. The first run is a disaster – failure may come at the 1,000th step – sound familiar? At some point you have to “figure out how to stay loose out there” – a Coach can only take you so far. They figure out that they have to put their own spin on it – do it the Jamaican way – in other words be authentic.

Finally, after qualifying, their final fun ends with the sled breaking apart within sight of the finish line. They pick themselves up and carry the sled over the line. That is the final lesson: Success is not the same as Winning. Winning is just being one point ahead. Success is vastly more important than Winning.

If you have a Definite Major Purpose, a Positive Mental Attitude, a Plan Of Action, a Mastermind Alliance and you weld them together with Persistence, you will have figured out how to hang loose out there and you will Succeed.

Expect success.

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