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Never give up; a lesson from Oscar Figueroa

On August 08 2016, it was a night of high emotions at Pavilion 2 Olympic arena at Rio; weight lifter Oscar Albeiro Figueroa Mosquera had won gold in his category. This was no ordinary win; the journey to triumph had been a particularly difficult one for him. There are very few events that bring intensity, high drama, emotions and potency like the Olympics. That notwithstanding, the ecstatic eruption of sobs from the Colombian made even the most cynical and hardened spectators well up inside. Pure tears of joy. Hundreds of spectators crying, cheering and singing with gusto. A beautiful moment to be alive.

Oscar made his Olympic debut aged 21 in Athens 2004, that year he finished fifth. He would represent his country the second time at Beijing 2008, it was to be a heart wrenching outing; suffering an injury, he did not finish. Back home, Oscar underwent a surgery and made it back to the sport. Displaying tireless courage and ingenuity, he would represent his country a third time in London 2012, making it for the medals table bagging a silver. It was Rio 2016 that would cap his career but not before a nail biting run up. Oscar was diagnosed with a hernia which had to be surgically removed; this was only seven months to the games. Oscar came to Rio emotionally drained; it had been 22 years of weight lifting, 22 years of waiting.

Determination; a firmness of purpose, had kept Oscar together in his long wait to glory. After the win, Oscar ritually removed his shoes to signal retirement but not without leaving us with lessons. Oscar advices “Discipline, persistence and hard work will always lead to success, it doesn’t matter how far are you in your progress, the most important thing is determination.” He adds “Get up every day determined to finish your training and studies, no matter how tired you are, and you will take pleasure in it.” We examine how to achieve and apply these worthwhile athletic attributes to business practises.

Leading author Jim Collins has researched extensively on the role of focus and determination in predicting the future outlook of an organisation. In a comparative study of leaders and laggards, he writes “Successful organisations reject the idea that forces outside their control or chance events will determine their results; they accept full responsibility for their own fate.” In the case of Oscar, he was clear that only him and him alone could determine his fate; he would undergo painful surgeries and a rigorous training. There would be no shortcuts there would be no letting up, as long as he was doing the right thing he would keep holding on to his dream.

When Roald Amundsen the first man to lead a successful summit of the Antarctica south pole was interviewed on what his strategy was, he had this to say “you prepare with intensity, all the time, so that when conditions turn against you, you can draw from a deep reservoir of strength. Equally, you prepare so that when conditions turn in your favour, you can strike hard. In the case of Oscar, he had maintained a fanatical discipline for 22 years, not faltering, not wavering, never waffling. When the conditions turned in his favour; good health, great team, roaring fans, he rose to the occasion and made the elements count.

On his fourth Olympic outing, Oscar’s long greasy climb for a gold medal was finally reached. His journey had been particularly difficult but he had remained tenacious, exhibiting a dogged determination. Fanatical discipline will move you ahead; start it today.

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