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Even Country Leaders Have to Learn to Take a Risk: Prince Albert's Most Moving Experience

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Things didn't go exactly as I planned in the 1994 Olympics. But I can say that I truly cherish the memories and the friendships I forged with my fellow Olympians. I'm still honored that Prince Albert of Monaco invited me to come watch his competition at those games, and even more honored when he agreed to be a contributor of what has become my best-selling book. Prince Albert shared with me that despite all he has done as a ruler for Monaco, it is his experience an Olympian that has most shaped his life.

Prince Albert II


(Story from When Turtles Fly: Secrets of Successful People Who Know How to Stick Their Necks Out)

"On deck, a bobsled team that is new to the Olympic track...Monaco! And surprisingly, holding the reins is Monaco's own Prince Albert II."

I think my bobsledding surprised many people--or "troubled many people" may be a more appropriate phrase. I know most everyone envisioned me sitting on a royal throne rather than in the driver's seat of an Olympic bobsled. Quite frankly, those closest to me were likely more comfortable with that "royal" picture as well.

As I visualized the undulating turns and dips that I would soon encounter, watched by a quarter of the world's population, my nerves began to dance and my pulse quickened. Soon I would be experiencing that tingly feeling I had before every bobsled run.

It was that same tingly sensation I would feel many years later, when confronted with the daunting task of speaking in front of over eight hundred dignitaries at the United Nations. But the years I spent testing my nerves at the top of various bobsled tracks around the world gave me the strength and bravado that I would need to conquer my fears.

I found myself hating my internal reactions to the danger, but somehow craving it at the same time. That danger always brought on a feeling of uncertainty, where I questioned if I was actually up to the challenge. There were even times when I wondered if I would survive the run. But deep down, I knew if I could get past my own fears and second thoughts and stick my neck out, I would grow physically and mentally at the same time. It's the greatest challenge, and subsequently, the greatest reward, to surmount our own fears.

As I stood at the top of the Olympic run, I thought back to the first Olympics I had the opportunity to attend--the 1980 games in Lake Placid, New York. After seeing the exhilaration of the bobsled event up close and personal, I knew I had to feel the sensation of whipping down the icy course at speeds of up to ninety miles an hour. I wasn't the reckless type, but I was always looking for new challenges in life, and bobsledding seemed the perfect outlet.

The very first time I clambered into a four-man bobsled as a passenger, in 1984, I was enveloped with the power and vibrations of the sled. My driver had just explained that we would be pulling four to five g's, and my stomach surged as the sled rocked around the sharp turns. After that first thrilling ride, I wanted to push the limits of my adrenaline level and feel what it was like to be in control of that 1,680 pound sled as it plummeted down the track. So in 1986, I convinced one of my daredevil friends to go through bobsledding school with me. I had been frustrated by the fact that I had not really gone anywhere in other sports growing up, and for a bobsledder, twenty-seven years old wasn't too late to start.

When I first signed up for the training, the thought of walking into the Olympic opening ceremonies carrying my country's flag hadn't even entered my mind. But when my coach eventually approached me about trying to qualify for the Olympics, it didn't take long for my look of shock to morph into a childish grin. It wasn't going to be an easy path, but I was more than eager to take it on.

Eleven months later I was standing at the top of the bobsled run of the 1988 Calgary Olympics, with a large "1" plastered on my sled. Not only was I actually competing in the Olympic Games, but my team was going to be the first to go. To calm my nerves, I tried to put everything in perspective, and realized that I had nothing to lose. I knew I had to rely on the instincts and feelings I had developed through facing endless other challenges. As soon as I pushed out of the start, I would officially become an Olympian--a title no one could ever take away from me. It wasn't something I was born into, but something I had taken a risk to do and developed myself.

This rush would invigorate me into steering my teammates through four more Olympic Games: Albertville, France, in 1992; Lillehammer, Norway, 1994; Nagano, Japan, 1998; and Salt Lake City, U.S.A., 2002. It created a high-voltage charge in my life that still pulses within me to this day.

My experiences in sport have continually helped me accept new and exciting adventures. Whether I was traveling across hundreds of hazardous miles of icecap to the North Pole, or making a terrifying speech in front of five hundred influential people, it always came back to those moments at the top of the track. Recalling my bobsled runs reminds me that I'm up for any challenge. The intent is still the same: conquer those fires in the pit of my stomach and get across the finish line. Those risks I took in sport have prepared me to reach all my goals throughout the rest of my life.

I certainly can't say there weren't fears involved. But I wasn't going to let my reservations hold me back from the feelings of elation that always flooded through me after I'd tackled those fears.

No, my life wouldn't have ended if I'd never climbed into that first bobsled...but I honestly don't believe I'd be the same person if I hadn't.

Motivational Weight Management Tip

My experience of working with the Biggest Loser contestants and Symtrimics has inspired me to leave motivational diet, health, and wellness tips at the end of all of my blogs. These tools will be driven from the actual advice shared in my weekly motivational Transformation Talks. This week's tip: In your weight loss and diet regimen, go beyond what you think is possible. Many times we believe we're giving 100 percent, but we still have fuel left in the tank. Today, try to push yourself a bit further than what you consider your maximum. Every task you do today, ask yourself if you could give just a little bit more. If you're going to take the time to improve your health, why not put your whole heart and soul into it and do it right this time.

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