olympic rings



All That Glitters…


“There’s a well-known survey in sports, known as the Goldman Dilemma. For it, a researcher, Bob Goldman, began asking elite athletes in the 1980s whether they would take a drug that guaranteed them a gold medal but would also kill them within five years. More than half of the athletes said yes. When he repeated the survey biannually for the next decade, the results were always the same. About half of the athletes were quite ready to take the bargain.”                                               New York Times Jan. 20, 2010


Today I thought I would explore the ultimate determination of Olympic athletes as we prepare for the Summer Olympic games in Brazil. Current reports suggest these games will be another overwhelming success. Well maybe not an overwhelming success, with many Russian athletes banned, a Zika virus that has caused many childbearing athletes to withdraw. Oh and the Olympic village has wiring defects and no indoor plumbing.  Brazil’s current president was arrested in office and impeached. And oh, one last thing, Brazil is in the middle of a perfectly timed economic collapse. These games will be an overwhelming success in the same sense that a 10% off sale for cat food at Walmart, is an overwhelming success.  Let the Games begin.

Enough of the Debby Downer attitude, lets return to this very interesting survey result hailing the Olympic athlete’s unquenchable desire to win a gold medal.

“More than half the athletes” would take a magic pill to win a gold medal but would kill them in five years. I am no market researcher but isn’t that over fifty percent of the Olympic athletes?  That, my friends, is commitment to a goal.

The good news is that this kind of desire will only heighten the entertainment value of each competition during the games. The bad news is that after the torch is extinguished, many of these medalists will show up in your offices looking for a job.

My purpose today is to help those who find themselves interviewing these high caliber athletes for potential employment at your organization, an organization that thrives with very ambitious, successful people.  As you review the resumes of these Gold Medal winners, appreciate the employment history will be sparse as their dedication to training trumped any opportunity to fry potatoes at the local McDonalds.

As you ponder these athlete’s employability, in your potential candidate pool, remember if one the candidates was a swimmer, you can make a very clever joke about candidate \ swimming pool, as an ice breaker to relax the interviewee. However if this candidate wears their Speedo swimsuit to the meeting, consider that a red flag for employment. Living in the past will not help their future plans.

For fun, and by fun I mean let’s pretend every athlete got their wish for a gold medal and now have five years to live, gainfully employed in the real world.  My intent here is pure. I am offering suggestions for your hiring practise that will remove your own bias, because you were always picked fifth when teams were being selected in gym class.  You may not foresee the contributions a gold medal athlete can make to help elevate your company’s success, but thankfully I can. Let me help you prepare for this possibility.


Interviewer:  Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Applicant:  Laying in a grave beside my grandfather.

The values at your organization have words like Truth, Transparency and Integrity. With this very truthful answer, it would be good time to applaud this candidate, who has finally helped you see a real life example of those values in action.  The interview will go very well and at the end of it, you will check your notes to determine the match of this person’s attributes with your current H.R. competency menu. The conclusion will more than likely look like this:


Results oriented, perseverance, goal oriented, high achiever, problem solver and candidate is surprisingly good at pole vaulting.


Belief in a magic pill.


Lets call this a wash. Prepare your offer letter with salary and bonus structure.

Before getting final signatures on this contract, one important consideration, is a slight amendment to the standard benefit package for this new hire.

Revised Benefit Package:

Life Insurance

Life insurance is off the table for this specific employee. Check with your legal department to ensure the surviving family members do not have legal arguments five years from now, against this obvious decision.


Short term disability for sure, but no long term disability benefit should be offered here.

Dental coverage

Keep the dental coverage in their benefit package. How bad can your teeth rot in just five years?

Glasses \ Eyewear

These people are athletes. Most should have 20 \ 20 vision and you can predict very little use of this benefit over the five years.  Your company will recognize your long term vision as well.

Pension Plan

Lets not be heartless here. Allow the new employee to participate in your company match and your long-term investment plan. This contribution will help with significant upgrades for the upcoming funeral.

Company Car

This is an easy one, as most leasing companies have a maximum duration of five years for their vehicles. Try not to mention this as you hand over the keys to their brand new car.

Vacation Policy

No need to amend this one as most organizations offer two weeks vacation for the first five years of employment. The good news here is you will get hard work for fifty weeks a year from this new dedicated former athlete.

Cultural Fit

This should be a watch out before hiring. Because of the anticipated short life span, this new employee may moan about the exorbitant length of your three-week training plan. Once again it is time to remind this new hire of a unique strength of theirs. As you recall, according to their resume, commitment to training is something they seem to be more than comfortable doing. It is commitment to work, that will be the real challenge here.

Other things to consider when hiring a gold medal athlete who will die in five years:

Keep this employee off the fast track of career pathing. Sadly, even if they make it to CEO in four years, the organization will not benefit substantially from their long term vision for the company’s future success.

If they insist on wearing their gold medal to all the staff meetings, take them aside and remind them that this might appear a little boastful. Also explain that as impressive as that achievement is, the other employees will be receiving a prize that they will not acquire…their 10th year anniversary gold watch.

As always I do hope this has been a helpful guide in your next hire.  This will also elevate your skill in both short term and long term planning.  Everyone loves the Olympic motto Citius – Altius – Fortius, translated meaning Faster, Higher, Stronger. These three words inspire athletes to reach greater achievements.  I would add one word, based on the Goldman survey, to more accurately describe the desire for high performance.  Faster, Higher, Stronger but Brief.


Cue the Blong:  Madness never sounded so sweet.



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