Sometimes, you need to give an impromptu presentation in conditions that are less than perfect. In that type of situation, it’s more important than ever to be yourself.
Imagine this public speaking scenario:
You’re 22 years old, halfway across the world, eager to participate in your second Olympiad. After waiting out several days of bad weather, your day finally arrived, and you won the ski race of your life, earning yourself—and your country—a gold medal in South Korea.
Now it’s 24 hours later, and you’re at the bottom of the hill, having just finished fourth in the Slalom, a different race that you were heavily favored (and practically expected) to win. You’re tired, disappointed, possibly ill (you vomited just before the race), and clearly riding a real-world roller coaster. You have, as Washington Post columnist Jerry Brewer put it, “just experienced the wildest 24 hours a headlining Olympian can have.”
You’re still breathing hard, helmet atop your head, holding your skis. A TV reporter approaches you with a live microphone. Your presentation, about to be transmitted to millions, begins NOW!
What will you do? What CAN you do?
For Mikaela Shiffrin, in that situation, there was really just one option: BE YOURSELF.
As Brewer described in his column, she started to process what had happened, right there in front of the camera. “As she talked it out, she became human. As she became human, she turned interesting.” She showed courage and vulnerability, and we paid attention.
Brewer’s point is not that it would have been nice to see Mikaela win multiple gold medals in Pyeongchang, though in some ways that would have been a perfect Olympic story. But watching her win AND lose within 24 hours, and hearing her talk about it honestly and authentically, can be a teaching moment for all of us.
The lesson we take away from this: Be yourself whenever possible, especially when conditions are less than ideal. You’re probably not going to be perfect. But then, perfectionnever really was the goal, was it?