Insights on Grit, Perfection, and Passion from Israel's Gold Medal Coach

I recently led a workshop for managers at Google Israel, with many brilliant minds in attendance. To spur innovative thinking, I invited Ayelet Zussman, the rhythmic gymnastics coach who led Linoy Ashram to become the first Israeli woman to win an Olympic gold medal in rhythmic gymnastics at the Tokyo Games.

Having coached Ashram for over 15 years, starting when she was just 9 years old, Zussman provided fascinating insights from her long partnership with the Olympic champion:

• True grit emerges under pressure. Only in pivotal moments can you discern who is destined for greatness.

• While some thrive on competition, winners are fueled by it. For most, competition is challenging - but for champions it is oxygen.

• Conquering crises catalyzes growth. When too comfortable, try to deliberately incite tension. Zussman assigned impossible drills after 8-hour practices, forcing breakthroughs.  

• The greats are obsessed with perfection. After a 6-hour workout, they start over if a stick drops. This mindset separates the good from the Olympics-bound.

• Becoming the best takes tireless preparation. Study tapes of rivals hundreds of times to devise more complex routines. Leave no margin for surprises.

• Passion from an early age sets apart the extraordinary. The spark of enthusiasm in young eyes foretells their future.

But Zussman also exuded an ineffable nurturing spirit. Through crisis and loneliness, disappointments, and triumphs, she provided wisdom and comfort.

The most meaningful experiences in life are often too profound to simply boil down to bullet points. Yet I recommend taking a moment after any enriching experience, whether a lecture, podcast, or otherwise, to identify and write down key takeaways. This practice may seem forced at times, but it's important. Without consciously extracting lessons from each experience, there is a risk that its impacts will merely flow in one ear and out the other. The act of articulating takeaways, even in basic bullet points, helps crystallize and integrate the essence of the experience so that it sticks and continues enriching you long after the initial event.

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