Hot Lessons From “Cool Runnings”

I believe that there are numerous similarities between successful professional athletes and successful entrepreneurs.

Let us take the 1993 movie, “Cool Runnings”, directed by Jon Turteltaub to illustrate some of these similarities as well as pivotal life lessons.

The movie revolves around the true story of three Jamaican track stars and a friend, who decide to compete in the winter Olympics event, Bobsledding, after a tumble and collision by the three athletes in their national qualifiers results in them failing to qualify for the Olympic games.

Let us begin;

1. Although we may work hard to pursue a goal or dream, the reality is that there is the possibility we may not succeed. But what really counts is what we choose to do after we have failed. The word “choose” implies we are in control to decide.  We can take the easy approach and do nothing (give up) or we can alter our approach and continue to strive ahead.

In the movie, after Derice failed to qualify for the track events, he recognized the opportunity to compete in the Bobsledding event and still realize his dream of becoming an Olympian. He did not even know what a bobsled was. It was tough but he convinced a previous bobsledding athlete who had been out of the game for a long time, to give him a chance so he could prove he had what it takes to succeed. By the way, not only did Derice and his team make it to the Olympics, they were the first ever Jamaicans to compete in this event.

For entrepreneurs or business owners, the initial idea/goal is very rarely accomplished. In other words, the final destination, in some cases successful could never have been predicted at the start. In those successful cases, entrepreneurs would have recognized what’s not working, pivot their strategy and push ahead, with “giving up” not being an option.

Lesson 1 – Perseverance in the face of adversity

2. Through your journey, there might be people that try to discourage you. The motives for this may stem from the fear of your potential success/rise, jealousy, or other factors. Despite this, you need to overcome those criticisms and believe in your goals.

In the movie, most of the people did not believe that the Jamaicans should be there competing. Maybe they feared the Jamaicans may be a competitive threat or the fact that they did not fit the prototypical mold of a bobsledding team given their substandard equipment or the fact that they have never competed professionally before. This could have had the effect of intensifying their belief in what they were striving to achieve as they were determined to train hard and prosper.

Some may condemn an entrepreneur’s vision/ideas due to their own inability to see value or due to skewed perceptions. Some may criticize a person’s business proposal, decisions or strategy. That does not mean it should be abandoned. Never let others extinguish the passion you have for doing something. If you can keep this passion burning then the motivation to keep at it will not be far behind.

Lesson 2 – If you can believe in your passions and have passion for your beliefs, then you will not be easily discouraged.

3. Everyone has their own way of doing things. Some may follow others. Some may follow the conventional methods which may not be the right approach. A successful sportsman/women or professional will evolve their strategy or approach until they discover the style that helps them achieve their goal.

In the movie, the Jamaicans adopted the style of the successful Swizz team in launching the bobsled of the start line; in particular, the yelling of eins, zwei, drei, to unify the actions of the team. While this may have worked well for the Swizz, it was not enough to inspire or help the Jamaicans find their rhythm. After taking the time to analyze it, they decided to revert to a truly authentic feel beginning with the way they would march into the stadium singing, to the iconic chant they would recite before launching the bobsled; “Feel the rhythm, feel the ride, get on up, its bobsled time. Coooool Runnings.” This more relaxed approach contributed to them performing exceptionally well and posting a top ten time.

In business, especially the current age, employing a sense of creativity in the way we operate can help discover new and efficient ways of accomplishing tasks. Challenging conventional means can open our world to more effective ways of managing customers or employees, developing business models, seeking additional revenue streams, managing costs etc. We have a lot to lose if we don’t allow ourselves to discover our own unique ways of accomplishing goals.

 Lesson 3 – Have faith in your own approach/style of doing things.

 4. In life, business and sports we have to go after what we want. This often means proving to ourselves that we have what it takes to be great and at the same time sending a message to others that we deserve to be taken seriously.

In the movie, the Jamaicans were intent on training hard, competing with the best and honorably representing their country. Crossing that finish line would have culminated these goals. But disaster strikes on the final day of competition as a mechanical failure results in the sled capsizing. In spite of this, they were determined to finish the race, even if this meant carrying the sled on their shoulders past the finish line. In doing so, they received huge appreciation, support and respect from the fans and other competitors. So much so, that they returned to the Olympics four years later, as equals.

The proverbial cliché that “actions speak louder than words” has been exhausted for a reason, it still holds true. One’s ability in the business world to take yourself seriously and abide by the principals of hard work and dedication will go a great length in earning the type of respect you deserve. This respect will open new doors and take you closer to accomplishing your goals.

Lesson 4 – Earn your respect through your actions

Another vital similarity and one that I have the utmost respect for is a successful athlete’s or person’s devotion to the pursuit of perfection, because at the end of the day it takes more than luck to be great. Training through the pain, working late to master a presentation, mastering in your head the turns of the race track from pictures when others are out drinking beer or working 7 days a week to successfully launch your business is something anyone could admire.

As one of the movie’s soundtracks puts it, in spite of whatever challenge that may present itself, just “RISE ABOVE IT.”


More info about the movie “Cool Runnings” can be found using the following link:



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