Book Review: Patriot Hearts by John Furlong

A couple of weeks ago, a friend gave me this book Patriot Hearts by John Furlong with Gary Mason. She said, when I heard this guy speak and started reading his book, I thought of you and that you would enjoy it. Without question, I did enjoy reading this one. The general overview of the book takes an account of everything from the bid process, to winning the bid, to building and hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. When I was reading this book, I could easily related to much of what John and his team were doing. I grew up just 1 mile (straight across the St. Lawrence River) from the Canadian border. Most of my youth was spent in Canada. When he was talking about the spirit  and Canadian culture – I could easily recall all of that. Since it was about the Winter Olympics, it had plenty of sports references – another passion of mine (especially – hockey). Lastly, my wife and I were in Vancouver in October 2009, just months before the Olympics. We got to see much of the area. All making this book something to draw me in. To pull of something as large as the Olympics is not a small task. To pull of one of the best Olympic games, even tougher. I watched those games… I enjoyed those games as a fan… Even though I am not Canadian, I was still very proud of what was pulled off. I know many Canadians, I grew up very close. I attend my first outdoor rock concert in Ottawa. I watched my first professional hockey and baseball games in Montreal. I drank my first beer (a Canadian Molson’s) on a Canadian island on the St. Lawrence.  I was really pleased with how the country circled around the games as a whole. This book, let you into the stuff behind the scenes.

My key takeaways – from a leadership perceptive – are setting a very grand vision and not settling for anything less. John and the team want these games to make every Canadian proud. To show the world the Canadian spirit. To host the best possible games that they could. At every turn down that journey, there were potential to compromise or change for  political, social or financial reasons. These created opportunities for new and innovative ways to handle them. John and his team did that without losing sight of their vision. Sure, they had to make some sacrifices, but overall the vision and delivery of that did not change. Keep that vision at the forefront of your decision making!

They had their fair share of problems that they needed to deal with. Weather and the unfortunate tragedy with the luge competitor from Georgia. The team dealt with them the best that they could. The opening ceremony had that faulty arm of the cauldron. They turned that around with the closing ceremony. Turning lemons into lemonade. What they did was keep their vision in mind with everything, everyone did.

There is so much more to take from this book, that I did not write about. Examples of great leadership, motivating and problem solving techniques. Read them for yourself.

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