The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown, is a beautifully written book and inspiring story about the ordinary young men who achieved an extraordinary goal against all odds in the 1932 Berlin Olympics. There are many leadership lessons throughout the book and it provides a clear and compelling example of stepping beyond the convenient and comfortable in order to live into extraordinary potential.

Athletes who get to this level of competition have natural talent or abilities that open the door for their development. Their potential is built through the opportunities they are afforded, their life experiences, inspiring role models, and effective coaches. Stretch goal setting, practice, perseverance, determination, grit, and resilience are words that represent the kind of commitment it takes to succeed; they need to be overcomers.

You know who I am talking about. We see them in business, in communities, in families, and in our neighborhoods. Overcomers are those people who, when faced with obstacles, stay in the race and are victorious. They prevail and they win in spite of challenges. According to Psychologist Henry Cloud, in his book Never Go Back, “The willingness to face short-term pain in order to get where you want to go is one of the defining characteristics of successful people.” Indeed, The Boys in the Boat were overcomers.

We saw another example at the Rio Olympics. Mo Farah competed in the 10,000-meter race. Expectations were high for his success, but in the 10th lap he took a fall. He rose quickly and proceeded to make his way back to the front of the pack. In the end, he won the gold medal. Later he said, “I got my rhythm back and just thought, don’t panic, don’t panic, don’t panic, you can get through this… I wasn’t going to let it go!” Mo is an overcomer.

At a recent Global Leadership Summit, Alan Mulally spoke about his shift from leading Boeing to leading the Ford Motor Company at a time when Ford was predicted to lose 17 million dollars (and it did). He took on this challenge in an industry unfamiliar to him, with skepticism surrounding his arrival, with a culture resistant to change, and a climate where transparency was not the norm. In this company that desperately needed to address focus, communication, and trust, he created a vision of what was possible. He was optimistic, determined and persevering. He was an overcomer who developed a climate and culture of empowerment and collaboration that turned Ford around. When Mr. Mulally finished his tenure at Ford, they were the number 1 brand in the US, number 1 and 2 in Europe.

What dreams have you set aside because they seemed impossible? What is one stretch goal that could connect to your talents, tap into your passion, and possibly unleash your extraordinary potential? Where do you need to turn up the overcomer in you?

If you want to be inspired by folks who are living into their potential and overcoming in remarkable ways, check out this video.



Carla Ruiz

Carla Ruiz

Carla’s mission is to fuel growth and development by affirming strengths, challenging beliefs, and igniting potential through Values Based Leadership. She presents, facilitates, and coaches in a variety of leadership programs and with companies intentional about strengthening their culture. In her role as a Leadership Development Coach, she is passionate about increasing emotional intelligence, which she believes is the cornerstone of effective leadership.

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