Sunday, September 28, 2014

Fearful Asymmetry

Meaningful moments & lessons on leadership from Cool Runnings.

Cool Runnings, a Disney movie released in 1993, is based on a true story about the first Jamaican bob-sled team that made it to the winter Olympics. Cool Runnings focuses on Derice Bannock, a runner who aspires to make it to the Olympics. However, during the trials, a competing runner unfortunately stumbles, causing Bannock and a few other runners to trip and lose the race. Desperate to get into the Olympics anyway, he eventually finds out about bobsledding as a sport in the winter Olympics. After convincing a retired Olympics bobsledder; Irving, to train him, Bannock manages to form a team from the unlikeliest people – Sanka, his humorous friend, as well as Junior and Yul Brenner, two other runners who didn’t make it through the trials.


In the movie, the Jamaican bobsled team is contrasted against the Swiss team during the Olympics. With the Swiss portrayed as professional and exact, the Jamaicans were shown to be more easy going and fun loving. At the same time, both teams had basic principles of hard work and good team chemistry. There are dozens of certified methods out in the world that can teach us how to develop a team with cohesive teamwork. While most of the methods are relevant and applicable, we must also understand that past the basic principles, no two teams operate the same way. Instead of merely following basic principles in generating good team work, we should also have an understanding of our team and how it works, to help us work together better. Similarly, Bannock who tries to follow the methods of the Swiss bobsled team in order to achieve the same success, is corrected by Sanka – we can’t apply the same ‘eins, zwei, drei’ method to every group project.

Bannock: You don’t see the Swiss team fighting, do you? You don’t see the Swiss team drinking and carrying on and such.
Sanka: And you don’t see the Swiss team smiling neither.


At the end of the movie, the team manages to hold its own and make it to the last round of the competition. Near the finish line, it encounters a bad bounce, causing the old bobsled to go out of control and topple over. Even though it is obviously unable to win, the team continues and finishes the race. With Bannock leading them, the four boys hoisted the sled over their shoulders, walked together to the finish line, and were met with applause and admiration from the audience as well as their competitors.

"Feel the rhythm! Feel the rhythm! Get on up, it’s bobsled time! Cool Runnings"!

"A gold medal is a wonderful thing, but if you're not enough without it, you'll never be enough with it".

By Sarah Tan

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