What better way to kick-start a customer conference in a lagging economy than to present an Olympic gold medalist as your keynote speaker?

Sage chose 1976 Olympic decathlon champion Bruce Jenner to deliver a speech at its Sage Summit customer conference. Jenner told his personal story of athletic triumph while also describing the struggles faced by many small business owners on their journey to success.

 "The journey is the same," Jenner said, comparing his road to success to that of an entrepreneur. "It starts with a dream. We have to project ourselves out there in the future to where we want to be."

Jenner said that his journey really began as a freshman college athlete in Iowa. He was watching the closing ceremonies of the 1968 Olympic games in Mexico City alone and his legs were in a cast after a football injury. He saw the announcement for the upcoming 1972 Olympic games in Munich and said to himself, "Wouldn't that be cool?"

A coach encouraged him to try the decathalon, even though he only knew five out of the 10 track and field events. After an initial competition, he decided to dedicate his time and energy to perfecting the sport and passed the Olympic trials. Ultimately, Jenner earned a spot in the Munich games but watched a Russian competitor take home the gold. Still, while he was relatively new at the game, he had his eye on the prize.

"Hey, look, you're a kid," he said, describing his inner dialogue on that day watching the Munich Olympic closing ceremonies. "You've only been doing this for two years. What if I took the next four years of my life just to see how good I could get? ... When we make true decisions in life, everything changes."

Instead of sleeping that night, Jenner darted out of bed and started a five-mile run down the streets of Munich as a result of that decision.

He left school, packed up his 1963 Volkswagen and journeyed to San Jose for training, with his sights set on competing in Montreal.

"We have to learn from other people," he said. "If we could take all the brains in this room and put them in a giant brain in the middle, we would have the answer to everything."

Not surprisingly, his performance level rose after his move, as he trained six to eight hours a day. Also not surprisingly, his performance level eventually evened out, creating a sense of doubt in Jenner about his goals, especially after a particularly tough event.

A conversation with a friend gave him the push he needed. His friend Vince asked tough questions, including, "Is winning the games the most important thing in your life?" That helped get Jenner to refocus and dig deeper.

As the date of the Montreal Olympic games approached and his family prepared to cross the border to watch him compete, Jenner felt the pressure increasing, but that helped boost his energy. "I want fear behind me, pushing me into the heat of the battle," he said.

He went into his competition that day in July 1976 and did the best times of his life, in all the categories in which he competed. "I learned about the power of the individual and what we can do with our minds," he said.

Two Sage executives, Doug Meyer, president of the company's industry and specialized solutions division, and Nina Smith, president of the business management division, introduced Jenner and thanked the approximately 2,000 users in attendance. They also introduced the 13 winners of the company's inaugural customer award program. "Our winners exemplify the spirit of exceptional achievement that the awards celebrate," Smith said.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Accounting Today content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access