Olympic Caliber: Overcoming Adversity

The search for examples of remarkable achievement and perseverance is never-ending. We find motivation in others overcoming adversity and seemingly “beating the odds,” gives us hope that we too may be able to succeed in our own endeavors. 

Enter the Olympics - a tremendous selection of stories of people powering through to victory, and, for many, not so fortunate outcomes sans gold medals; but triumph nonetheless in the pursuit. These examples from the last few days alone showcase the potential of what’s possible and the commonalities in perseverance.   

Shaun White

World wondering if he can do it. Crash in practice with 62 stitches in October, missed a few weeks of training and prior Olympics disappointing performance. Father of snowboarding and the most prolific in history. Overcame immense pressure and solidified legacy by winning gold with a memorable performance. 


Chloe Kim

Immense pressure and hype. 17-years-old. Qualified for Olympics at age 13 but opted not to attend. Won 3 gold medals at X-Games prior to these Olympics. Dad would drive her 6-hrs each way on weekends to train and changed his job.  Landed back-to-back 1080s (remarkable sequence)  to win gold and signifcantly outpace her competitors.


Red Gerard

Who? No way you can win now. Rising star in US men’s snowboard slopestyle. 17-year-old who started off with two completely terrible runs ranking near last place and only one run remaining on a following day. Woke up late, borrowed a jacket two sizes too big. On his last chance he scored an 87 to win gold. Youngest American man to win gold since 1928.


Martin Fourcade

Expected to win big but started with a major failure. First person in history to defend gold in biathlon pursuit and the most dominant mens biathlete in the last decade. Registered likely his worst performance in last 10 years on the first day, finishing 28 seconds off the lead. Accepted and admitted he was the reason he did poorly, not luck. Returned with a dominant performance and won gold convincingly. 


Joseph Nolan is a NYC-based marketing consultant and thought leader with over a decade at major brands in auto, ecommerce, lifestyle and fitness. Opinions are his own. Feedback, article ideas and business inquiries welcomed at joe@jonomkt.com. Learn more @ jonomkt.com / @josephjnolan.



Lessons from the Trenches: Adjust Your Focus

On a patch of dirt roughly 45 yards wide and 50 yards long, not a blade of grass in sight. Nestled on a city street next to an old junkyard piled high and deep with car parts and pieces of rusted metal machinery…a blistering 95-degrees with 90% humidity on balmy August mornings transformed into 35-degrees with a 20-mph wind on weeknights at the end of October.  The Manhattan skyline so close across the Hudson River you could touch it, pride tattooed on your chest for the whole world to see…

An economically and ethnically diverse lot of 50 freshman traveled six days a week to this infamous, dreaded practice field from 30 towns across Northern NJ, some with a commute more than an hour long each way.  Every player was a gridiron star in their hometown now embarking on a journey to see if they could endure the daily grind on the field and in the classroom at one of the state’s most challenging athletic and academic high schools – St. Peter’s Prep.

There were good days and bad days just like anywhere else.  However, at the corner of Grand and Warren in Jersey City, it seemed like every day was gameday – commute to school, six or seven classes, practice 3-6 PM, commute home, 2-3 hours of homework, repeat – for FOUR years. Everyone learned quickly and it wasn’t a secret, this lifestyle and level of commitment for 48 months was simply a battle of attrition.

So the 50 freshman players stood in alignment with the traditional “silver dome” helmets next to them forming perfect rows ready to stretch out before another grueling practice.  A million things going on in the mind of a teenager, and though geared up and ready run around and hit and get rocked, football was often the furthest from top of mind.  Fast-forward to the mid-point of the season and the combination of pure physical exhaustion and perplexing exams made the toughest kid feel like crap.

From the deep in the belly of a boisterous, big guy who worked as a police officer by morning and life coach moonlighting as a football coach in the afternoons, Ed Roselle bellowed loud and proud every day across the stretching lines, “How do you feel?!” The team replied in unison, “Good.” He repeated, “How do you feel feeeeel?!” 50 strong replied, “Good good.” And last in escalating tone and pitch, “I said how do you feel feel feeeeeel?!!” The freshman squad yelled, “Good good goooood!” Then practice began.

No one ever actually felt good. But thanks to Coach Roselle, suddenly no one cared. No one cared about their parents being upset about a bad test grade or their girl friend breaking up with them. At that moment in time 50 minds became focused on the task at hand – playing football. The lesson? It’s what you focus on that matters. Focus is what separates top performers from everyone else. There’s always going to be good and bad; focusing on the right thing at the right time is what gets you through the bad and leads to more good.

Do you have that feel good focus? Does your team?


Lessons from the Trenches is a series about leadership and success from experiences in athletics and the corporate world.  Joseph Nolan is a Los Angeles-based marketing and digital executive with over a decade of experience at leading companies in retail, ecommerce, entertainment and health/fitness. Opinions expressed on JoeSocial.com are his own. Please direct business inquiries and suggestions for future posts to joe@joesocial.com.  



The dad was a football man, former college player turned member of a top-rated HS officiating crew, but at an early age his son initially took to the sport of baseball instead.  Not possessing knowledge of the sport near that of football, he sought ways to learn the ins-and-outs as quickly as possible so he could teach his son. Reaching out to colleagues and friends, the dad discovered a renowned 3-day coach’s clinic about an hour from home. The best in game, top college and MLB coaches staffed intimate seminars for groups of ~40 discussing everything from mental preparedness and proper warmups to situational hitting and pitching strategies. For several years the father took time off from his busy corporate schedule and attended the clinic with his son, each year met with the same excitement and anticipation. They achieved their goal of continuing to learn about baseball, and more importantly, strengthened their father-son relationship and expanded the son’s perspective on the world around him.

Lesson 1: Never stop learning (continuous improvement). There’s always more to learn. One is seldom the smartest person in the room and those who think they are often aren’t. Surround oneself with the best possible talent and together everyone will be more successful.

The main ballroom was standing room only, packed wall-to-wall with 200 H.S. coaches from around the country. The father and son duo had skipped an earlier seminar to spend time testing the latest gear from vendors – but primarily so they could score 3rd row seats for the most anticipated presentation of the event. The sound of tobacco and bubble gum chewing men frantically clicking their pens and sharing exaggerated stories of victories and standout players of times past while waiting for the session to start was unforgettable. Then without notice a hush fell across the mildly rambunctious crowd and the discussion on the philosophy of coaching baseball began…

dad pic.jpg

He strode onto the stage with uncanny charisma, authority and confidence. Simply put, when it came to college baseball he was legitimately THE MAN. Inventor of LSU’s renowned homerun power hitting offense dubbed Gorilla Ball and, more impressively, winner of 5 NCAA championships along with 11 NCAA World Series appearances, the guru himself Skip Bertman stood before the crowd. In the previous season his LSU Tigers were a favorite to take the national title for a second consecutive year but were eliminated early in the post season shocking the baseball world. He spoke of how his staff employed all the usual tactics after a devastating loss: working harder in the offseason, “recommitting oneself” to the game, reducing distractions and so on. Everything good coaches do in any sport.

But then one day during an off-season practice suddenly it all became clear to him. An assistant coach hit a ground ball to their star infielder who scooped it up and threw it over to first base, routine play like always. Skip muttered to his assistant, “That was pretty good.” What was immediately clear was that he had allowed his staff and all-star cast of players to accept “pretty good” as their normal way of working. They’d become complacent and simply figured that “pretty good” from the best players in the country would be good enough to win a championship. The “pretty good” mentality stealthily crept its way into the program, Skip was honestly upset about it and he took full responsibility. The hall of fame coach’s closing remarks left the crowd silent and were the buzz of the remainder of the conference: “If you learn anything during this seminar, it should be that sometimes pretty good is in fact good enough. But, pretty good isn’t great. Everyone else works hard. Everyone else has good players. So to be a champion, it often takes being something great. Don’t let ‘pretty good’ infest you and your teams.”

Lesson 2: Humility. As the crowd exited, the father’s words to his young son were as unforgettable as the coach’s. “You see that man? He’s the best at what he does in the entire country. He just stood up here in front of all these people and admitted he made a mistake. No one’s ever too good to admit they screwed up. What’s important is you learn from it and don’t make the same mistake twice.”


Joseph Nolan is a Los Angeles-based marketing and digital executive with over a decade of experience at leading companies in retail, ecommerce, entertainment and health/fitness. Opinions expressed on JoeSocial.com are his own. Please direct business inquiries and suggestions for future posts to joe@joesocial.com.  


Few people have the opportunity to build their teams from scratch, while others make a career out of it. Undoubtedly the longer you’re in business the more likely the situation is to present itself. Creating a winning team is nothing short of a challenge and depending on the industry or corporate culture it can be a herculean effort. Absolutely you’ll face pressure from all sides, but staying focused, continuing to move forward and keeping your eye on the prize should lead to success - easier said than done. Take some tips from the pros on how to turn team building from a nerve-racking game of high risk poker to a hand full of aces.

1- Read Switch Now

Park the extension courses, webinars, seminars and white papers. Read this book and implement the winning approach. The Heath brothers lay out the perfect roadmap for regime, culture and people change. Book is a grand slam.

2- Add 25%

Among the most important principals deployed by Silicon Valley’s top entrepreneurs - add 25% to everything you can, especially time. No matter what - seriously - it will take you longer to accomplish goals than you originally think, especially if it’s your first time team building or the group is new at the company. Add 25% to project timing, budgets (you’ll likely settle for 10% more $$), technology, etc. You don’t know what you don't know, and neither do the countless coworkers you’re relying on to execute and make you successful.

3- No Substitute for Talent

The uber principal of hiring. The reality is talented people are good at what they do for a reason and it often includes hustle. So think twice about hiring the hustler who lacks talent. You’ll be expected to hire quickly and HR has a quota to fill. The pressure to hire fast is immense, but avoid wrong hires at all costs to prevent myriad problems in the future.

4- Hire Top Down

Strong management is critical to success. Leaders need to mesh well with their subordinates; hiring bottom up conflicts with this principal and creates a greater propensity for friction. You don’t have to work with the level 1 employee, your manager does - remember that.

5- Over Communicate - PLEASE!

Unfortunately many senior executives opt for less cross-functional communication when teams are being established, often purposefully suppressing interaction. Politics, personality, silos/power - dozens of reasons why this happens. Can be particularly common in disciplines where strong communication skills are not a core prerequisite. Think about it - the colleagues helping you get things done should be kept aware of what’s going on, right?! Common sense. Establish and monitor communication boundaries and avoid proactively fostering a toxic environment that takes too much time and stress to remedy. One team, one dream - don’t you forget it.


Joseph Nolan is a Los Angeles-based marketing and digital executive with over a decade of experience at leading companies in retail, ecommerce, entertainment and health/fitness. Opinions expressed on JoeSocial.com are his own. Please direct business inquiries and suggestions for future posts to joe@joesocial.com.  

JoeSocial Returns

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So, from marketing to measurement, communications to crisis management, whether “IRL” or on the interweb, and of course the Holy Grail fundamental of leadership, we’re bringing fresh thinking from the best and brightest. DISCLAIMER: please buckle up and continue reading at your own risk. Be careful, content on this site might just blow your mind. Real talk, this biz blog is about to #crushit. Let’s get started…


Joseph Nolan is a Los Angeles-based marketing and digital executive with over a decade of experience at leading companies in retail, ecommerce, entertainment and health/fitness. Opinions expressed on JoeSocial.com are his own. Please direct business inquiries and suggestions for future posts to joe@joesocial.com.