The U.S. versus Ghana World Cup match that aired on ABC and Univision attracted 19.4 million U.S. viewers -- the same number that Fox averaged for last year's World Series. Good for soccer, and for the networks -- I just wish we could have had a U.S. victory to celebrate.
Soccer fever was sweeping the states, and then, with the loss to Ghana, the energy evaporated. Watching that defeat, I couldn't help but remember one of our more inspirational moments (and one of the greatest games ever): the U.S. hockey team's comeback in the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics.
Team USA had no chance of winning. The Soviets had the best team in the world and it had destroyed the U.S. just months prior. The Russian team had legends; we had rookies (in fact, only one had previously been to the Olympics.) The day before the game, the New York Times declared, "Unless the ice melts, or unless the United States team or another team performs a miracle...the Russians are expected to easily win the Olympic gold medal for the sixth time in the last seven tournaments."
But the U.S. team members rose up to the challenge, unleashed their full potential, and found a level of performance and capability they didn't even know they had. They won the game, and they ultimately won the gold.
The winning play wasn't one move, but rather the "Spirit of And." Team USA might have been made up of novices and the critics predicted an easy defeat, but the teammates found a spirit within themselves that allowed them to play better than they ever thought possible. Viewed this way, the "Spirit of And" is not intimidating, nor is it about demanding the impossible. Rather, it is an idea that is accessible and uplifting, even spiritually fulfilling. After all, the "Miracle on Ice" wasn't really a miracle, but the result of a mindset that embraces the philosophy of "I can." This idea is not confined to pro athletes, but something anyone can access.
Why is this motivator acceptable on the ice, but not acceptable in the office? How come we fear the "Spirit of And," worrying that people will ask too much of us? We are afraid that we will be pushed too hard, sacrifice too much, and never see the end of our bosses' demands. This is a fair concern, but it's playing defense, not offense. Ultimately, we agree to be managed to the average. Worse, we also put limits on ourselves. Why? Think about how much better we could perform as individuals and teams if we tapped into our own potential, rather than accepting the restrictions we allow others to impose upon us or, worse, that we impose upon ourselves.
There is more in each of us to give. We must not think in traditional fixed terms of performance or capabilities. By embracing the "Spirit of And," we can discover abilities we didn't know we had, and accomplish more than we ever thought possible.
Congrats to the U.S. soccer team for getting as far as it did. I hope it inspires others to think about how they can take their game to the next level. The "Spirit of And" can spur creativity, unlock innovation and strengthen resolve that is fundamental to overcoming challenges or, in some cases, a situation that seems impossible. If you think about how an epic sports win inspired the whole country, imagine what embracing the "Spirit of And" could mean for you and your team.