Jeanine Cogan
Executive coach

Jeanine Cogan

Heads Cogan Coaching and is on the faculty of the Center for Continuing and Professional Education at Georgetown University.


Against all odds

Q: Is it wise when athletes pursue success at the expense of their educations? Simon Cho dropped out of high school to train as a short-track speed skater, and his father sold his business to pay the bills. The teenager ended up surprising everyone -- including himself -- by making the U.S. Olympic team. Is tunnel vision a good thing in pursuit of such a demanding goal? Are extreme sacrifices necessary, or foolish?

Simon Cho's success has so many juicy components to it.

First there is the immigrant going for the American dream -- showing both that it is possible and that it is very challenging without the American green light: money.

Second, it highlights how one's commitment to be outstanding at something like speed skating means making sacrifices in another area of one's life -- in Simon's case, completing school. Simon practiced and committed himself to this sport with enormous focus, not allowing him to fulfill the high school attendance requirements.

Third, when Simon hit a lull in confidence and took a break from skating, he was inspired again by someone who really believed in him -- his coach, Jimmy Jang.

Success is how we define it. Given that Simon is defining success as going for the gold, high school was not taking him toward that goal. This is something he can always return to if his direction and passions change. Whether he brings home the gold or not, he is already a winner by making the Olympic team against all odds.

One client I worked with showed great commitment when the odds were against her. Nicole Burton wanted to publish her book "Swimming Up the Sun". She came up with lists after lists of publishing companies and agents that were a good fit for her memoir of adoption and dutifully sent inquiries to each one. She received one rejection letter after another, often with praise of her writing skill.

After a year and dozens of rejection letters later, she created her own publishing company. Her book, "Swimming Up the Sun" was the first book her company, Pippa Publishing, published. She has read from her book at conferences, book signings, book clubs and other venues -- proud to be a published author. She is currently publishing the second book of Pippa Publishing.

Imagine if she had quit after her first, fifth or 10 rejection letter?

By Jeanine Cogan  |  February 15, 2010; 6:01 AM ET  | Category:  Determination Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Who says any of these athletes is giving up any of their education? I went back to college when I was 28. They're going to the olympics, not death.

Posted by: jimmylundstrom | February 16, 2010 4:32 PM
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It's really too bad that this kid's parents didn't stand up to him and INSIST that he finish high school FIRST and then consider speed skating as a hobby along with getting a REAL job.

When his 15 minutes of fame are done, he's going to be another high school dropout destined to work at a convenience store, on the midnight shift.

Posted by: Alex511 | February 16, 2010 2:42 PM
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