Dick Fosbury

In 1963 the record for high jump stood at 2.28m by Brumel, a Russian athlete. About the same time, an upcoming athlete from Oregon State University claimed to surpass it using a different technique. Until then, all high jumps recorded were with athletes launching themselves over the bar feet over first, facing the bar. They were commonly called the scissor or straddle style. Dick Fosbury explained, he would pivot when he jumped, scaling the bar backwards head over first. He called it the flop technique. Critics, athletes, and coaches said it was impossible.

In the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, Fosbury walked away with a gold medal with 2.24m using the flop technique. He did not beat the world record, but he managed to shock the world. Brumel is to have seen this new technique as an ‘aberration’. However, in the 1972 Olympics, 28 of the 40 competitors used the Flop style and the world record had been broken by Pat Matzdorf in 1971 using it. Today the Fosbury Flop is the universal technique, and the world record stands at 2.45m.

But what about Dick Fosbury, the man who, as quoted by the reputed US high jump coach John Tansley, “literally turned his event upside down”?

In 1964 after his astounding Olympics win with a clean jump over the 2.24m bar, many expected Fosbury to come back and steal the record. His jump pictures had been wired across continents, giving him naming rights – the ‘Fosbury Flop’. However, Fosbury had been given a stark choice at his university between focusing on his civil engineering studies or high jumping, and he opted for the former.

To break through a belief system and become a trendsetter in sports is awe-inspiring, but the story made me wonder, what if Fosbury had stayed on and chosen high jumping? By choosing academics, did he make the wrong choice and cut short his run towards brilliance…?

I was quickly stalled in my line of thinking when I read what he said in an interview in 2012, that the flop “brought me gifts – not necessarily monetarily … but I have met presidents and kings, seen the world, shared my life with wonderful people. It opened doors and allowed people to perceive me in a positive light.” He collaborated with Adidas to design special high jumping shoes; his story inspired music albums and his technique motivated countless others. He fought cancer in 2008 and came out healed and stronger on the other side. To date, he coaches youngsters, encouraging them to be their creative self and find new ways to excel. He found his way to reveal his brilliance.

I like this story as it turns the typical success story on its head. Just as we all need to, perhaps. Especially when we challenge the contextual framework women face when considering getting back to work or when carers are exploring ways to excel in their passion whilst caring for others. With Fosbury and many such stories as our backdrop, I invite you to read on and spot how you can reveal your brilliance and perhaps how you can help others show theirs. Let’s start at the beginning – the word, “brilliance”.

Defining Brilliance

Is it a goal? An idea? A benchmark? All of us face life moments where we wonder what route to take. Women often face that moment when they consider getting back to work after parental leave or, perhaps, when a carer explores how they can care for others and still follow their passion. You might have faced a similar crossroad on a larger or smaller scale.

It does not matter which decision one makes if it is from a position of inner power and courage. It’s how you live your life after that decision which matters. Fosbury took the not so obvious choice and excelled in his life. Brilliance is not a goal; it is a journey. It is not an idea or benchmark you get from the outside world or an authority figure. It comes from within you as you achieve inner balance and accelerate. Stolen from my book, The Brilliance Quotient, I am delighted to share five ways to recognise, reveal, and experience your brilliance in that journey.

Reframe Your Lens

Parents returning to work and carers sometimes find themselves asking questions: Should I get back to work now or later? Should I ask for that promotion I was ready for before I went on leave? How do I make time to do what I love with my caring responsibilities? Should I be feeling guilty for not working my office hours fully? Should I be feeling guilty for not spending more time caring? and, so on. These are natural; however, you might notice that you are experiencing persistent emotions of anger, stress, worry, doubt, frustration, and anxiety attached to these, which are disturbing your inner balance and creating roadblocks in your journey. What do you do?

An immediate response that you can take is to shift your emotions and open new possibilities – known as ‘reframing’. Life is what we make of it. If you wear yellow glasses, then life will look yellow. You wear green; it looks green. Looking at the questions with a different pair of glasses or with a different mindset helps open-up new choices. That’s reframing.

Once you learn how to reframe, it allows you to explore new choices that can minimise or remove barriers that keep you from being the best version of yourself. It will enable you to overcome limiting beliefs and assumptions put forward by the external world. Both can be mind-cramping and life-limiting when they get internalised by an individual. Break free by choosing to see life choices with different lenses and find your own ‘flop’ technique to excel in life.

Honour Your Values

In my personal life and all the 2000+ hours of coaching experience, values are the #1 accelerator (or derailer) to living a life of purpose, happiness, and with a sense of abundance. Whilst we all know values are essential, in most cases, they are a forgotten child at worst and under-nourished at best. It’s no surprise as no-one teaches us to discover and honour our values when we are growing.

Can you name yours? If yes, do you think you are living your values? If your response was not a clear affirmative on either or both questions, I encourage you to pursue this golden nugget. Identify your values and bring them to conscious awareness to find ways to embed them in all areas of your life. You will unlock inner power and confidence.

When you honour your values, they will anchor you and your decisions on self-care, developing winning behaviours, sharpening your impact and revealing your brilliance wherever you are – as a parent, carer, team member, leader or friend. Like in developing physical health, we need to create strong ‘core muscles’; to develop mental resilience, we need strong core values.

Play to Your Strengths

When Fosbury was practising high jump using the traditional method, he found he was struggling. He decided to follow his instincts which he then went on to perfect. Underlying this approach is a powerful principle and method to reveal your brilliance. If you have not considered using this yet, then welcome to another exciting opportunity of not just levelling the playing field but excelling in it.

Often, when people are growing up, they are taught ‘how to succeed’ in a certain way by authority figures or pick it up from our role models and managers. It is also a fact that we grow up with the mindset to ‘fix the problem’. For example, the Grade Ds are given more time and attention than the Grade As at school. The Strengths approach flips the coin with magnificent results.

Strengths are your natural skills. We all have them and they are different for different people. Often, we are not aware of where we are using our strengths and might have unrealised strengths. When you use your natural strengths with skill and mastery, you will have unlocked your unique formula for consistent outperformance. Whether it is success at work, managing multiple responsibilities or getting to your goals in less time and less stress, play to your strengths. It is the shortest route to revealing your brilliance.

Can Diversity Work for You?

Sometimes amid childcare, sleep deprivation and seemingly unlimited caring responsibilities, you wish someone could lend a helping hand so you could nurture your career aspirations. One of my friends managed the home front and when she got back to work, she struggled as teams had changed, the company had installed a new IT system, appointed a new boss, and a new operating model. She wished someone could help her out.

You are not alone. Let me say that again. You are not alone. I invite you to recognise and find advocates and support systems and reach out to them. Explore, discuss and set up your own ‘board room’ – a favourite exercise we use in ECC’s Accelerate programme.

The beauty of diversity is that different people not only think differently, they are often willing to help in a variety of ways. Who would love to help at home if you need to be at work longer than predicted or need an alternate carer while travelling? Who is the office colleague who can sit in for a meeting because you must get back home earlier than planned? Who is your go-to person when you are confused, needing a sounding board or just a chat?

Reaching out for help does not mean you are less professional or less of a super-parent or super-carer. It means you are professional and you re-hashtagged #DiversityInAction. When you are planning, you are mindful that life is chaotic and that we need others to reveal our brilliance. You would do it for others, wouldn’t you?

Live Your Purpose

My 5th and final invitation to reveal your brilliance is this. We all wear different hats with the distinct roles we play. We are a carer, parent, daughter, son, sibling, boss, friend, neighbour, and the list goes on depending on who we are and the roles we play. We are always wearing one hat, but sometimes we forget it as we live the life of service to all the different players with our other hats. This hat I call ‘My Purpose’ hat.

In my book, ‘The Brilliance Quotient’, a chapter is dedicated to the concept of purpose. Geraldine Gallacher, ECC’s CEO, is the co-author. At one place, she says, “through my coaching work and personal experience, I have come to realise that you don’t FIND your purpose, you DEVELOP it.” How true. Your purpose is your North Star. For some, it is clear. For others, it seems to be just beyond the veil of confusion and responsibilities.

Here is the clue. When you begin to operate at optimum capability and capacity levels with the ways discussed in this article, you will be inexplicably be drawn to choices that align with your aspirations, your raison d’être, your purpose. As you begin to live those choices, you will start to attract events, circumstances, and like purpose people. You notice one day you are walking your path of brilliance and it is a meaningful one.

Your life is your story of brilliance. Live it as if you own it.