Olympic Goal Achievement – The Mark Spitz Moustache!

As Michael Phelps at London 2012 goes to the top of the list of number of Olympic medals, it’s a great time to look at some goal achievement lessons from the first man to try for massive medal hauls…

Goal Achievement The Great Gordino

click to go to Mark Spitz website

Mark Spitz.

Another American, he won 7 golds at the Munich Olympics in 1972, but to start the tips from his story, let’s go back 4 years to Mexico in 1968.

Spitz was world record holder in the 100 and 200 butterfly, and was looking for a nice set of golds. He came second in the 100 though, and then in the 200 trailed in last. To use his own words, he was ‘broken’, he had simply buckled mentally.

It impacted him so badly that he was on the verge of retirement, but instead he decided to seek extra help in his goal efforts. He went to Indiana University, which had the reputation as being *the* place to go for world class swimming coaching.

That’s lesson number 1 – getting past negative emotions after failure, and deciding to come back for more.

Sports science is everywhere nowadays, but back then it was still in its’ infancy. The head coach at Indiana was James Councilman. He wanted to know what the best swimmers were doing under the water, so he put lights on their hands, turned the lights off and filmed them underwater!

What a great example of an innovative approach to get answers as to how to progress things. It also shows that for the vast majority of goals, other people have already done the work, because that work by Councilman showed an ‘S’ shaped made by the arms under water, which he hadn’t expected to see.

That’s lesson number 2.

On to the Munich Games, and Spitz was aiming at 7 gold medals. At a press conference, Spitz as asked why he had a moustache, that surely he was going to shave it off.

Spitz answered that he was keeping it because it deflected the water from his face which helped get his head further into the water. That wasn’t true, Spitz had been playing, but he decided there and then to keep it, and from then on all the Russian swimmers had a moustache!

Yet another example of reverse engineering someone else’s success, but also making sure you check your information and don’t accept things blindly!

Lessons 3 and 4 there!

One more lesson to go from those Spitz Olympics in 1972…

Six golds in, and six world records, Spitz suddenly had doubts about the 100 freestyle
– suddenly his belief had totally gone, and he wanted to pull out. His coach told him he would be remembered as a bottler if he didn’t compete in the blue riband event, so he was persuaded to take part, and won that 7th gold in his 7th world record.

The lesson from that, is when you feel fear, and wonder why successful people don’t feel fear, the answer is that they *do* feel fear, but to use the well known phrase, they do it anyway!

That’s the 5th lesson, and if you add that to the other you have a great little collection…

– Decide to move forwards after a setback.
– You may need to innovate, or someone else may have already done it for you!
– Reverse engineering someone else’s success can show you your next step.
– You must check your information and not blindly accept what you’re told.
– Feel the fear and, yes, do it anyway.

Your goal may not be to win an Olympic swimming gold, but think of Mark Spitz’s moustache and think how you can apply his lessons to whatever your own goal is.

Ok, that’s it for now – let me know what you think and feel free to share, like, tweet etc!

‘Til Next Time,
Health & Happiness,
P.S. If you enjoyed this article, you may enjoy my book ‘Transform Your Life in 21 Days!’
P.P.S. You also be interested in my ‘Make Money From Sport’ guide.

Do leave a comment!

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  • I really enjoyed reading your article about Mark Spitz.
    It was informative and it was so easy to follow.

    Lessons are all around us, all we need to do is to recognise them.
    But here – you did it for us – and now I’ve got a great collection in these 5 excellent tips in how to get to where I want to go….
    …and I don’t even need to grow a moustache

    Many thanks

    • Thanks Dave,
      I particularly like the revelation about how he wanted to quit in ’68 but didn’t, then wanted to pull out of the 1972 100 but didn’t. It shows that it’s not unusual to be nervous about things!
      Cheers, Gordon

    • Thanks Cheri, it’s amazing how many times I check what someone has said only to find the facts say something different! Cheers, Gordon

  • So motivational and topical. I like the reverse engineering account of the moustache! Perhaps I ought to grow a moustache again….

    What great advice from the coach too. Shows us we need good coaches and mentors who will help us reach that success around the corner, often just at the point when we want to give up.

    Thanks for a great post Gordon!

    • Thanks David, I did laugh when I discovered that moustache story! You’re so right about coaches and mentors, they can help get rid of our self created demons! Cheers, Gordon

      • well, since I’m in the UK, and quite happy with my current car insurance provider, you may well be correct in your self assesment, but thanks for the kind words!

  • I think it’s always powerful to be reminded that “the big guys” deal with the same emotions and frustrations as the rest of us. It’s just that they keep working through them until they get to “the other side!’

    Thanks for another insightful post.

    Here’s to “the other side!’

    • I would never have thought Mark Spitz would have felt things like that until he said so himself – I found it very revelatory and inspiring! Cheers, Gordon

    • Thanks Julia! As I watched the documentary I was chomping to get writing! It went on my list, and the Olympic swimming seemed a good time to get it done! Cheers, Gordon