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Marnie McBean adds author to resume that already includes mentor and champion

05/16/2012 10:03 EDT | Updated 07/16/2012 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - On a recent Italy trip with Canadians who had purchased the "Under the Tuscan Sun" package at an Olympic fundraising dinner, Jim Cuddy and Barney Bentall provided the music while Marnie McBean, Curt Harnett and Chandra Crawford served up the inspiration.

When it was McBean's turn to talk during "Olympic Athlete Night," the three-time Olympic rowing champion pulled out her Canadian uniform from the opening ceremonies at the 1992 Games.

The outfit, in her words, was horrendous — technicolour puke. But it remains a valuable teaching tool two decades later.

Coach Al Morrow reminded his disappointed rowers that ugly uniforms and spartan accommodations were not at the heart of their Olympic journey to Barcelona.

"Our rowing was the only thing we needed to worry about," McBean writes in her new book "The Power of More." "Everything else was just filler."

The anecdote comes under the subhead "Remember What Matters."

McBean's book is crammed with such nuggets — unique, often off-the-wall anecdotes and life lessons.

Her world is filled with the concepts of jammed cats, infinity plus one, and filling your cup with grains of rice. Words to live by include "Split the bill," "Can I? Will I?" "Breathe and outlast," "Comfortably uncomfortable," "If it ain't broke ... Fix it anyway," and "Suck it up, princess!"

"Being successful requires embracing two ideas at the same time," McBean writes. "Pride in what you have already achieved and a constant belief that there is always more to do."

McBean is all about opening doors, at work or play. Her ''More" can be about taking another step on the road to gold, improving performance in the workplace or simply expanding your horizons.

McBean, 44, has transitioned from athlete to mentor. Under contract with the Canadian Olympic Committee as a specialist in athlete preparation and mentoring, she serves as sounding board, big sister and consultant to elite athletes.

McBean describes her role as helping athletes "go into the Olympic environment with all the same confidence that they go into their World Cups and their world championships so that they can perform to their potential."

She says her own experiences, success and failures were her starting point. But she soon learned that they resonated with others.

"I started off at the corporate events talking about myself and the lessons I learned," McBean said in an interview. "And then as I was talking to the athletes, I started realizing that they were universal.

"And through the corporate presentations, when I was finished with them, I was having more and more people coming up and saying how the lessons were really universal to their lives — and such a huge variety of lives."

The idea for the book came out of the Vancouver Olympics. McBean says she was energized by the positive feedback from athletes about her mentorship.

"I think it was really just me coming to an understanding that some thoughts that I think are kind of simple and, to me, very natural, that they can help not just rowers, not just some summer athletes and winter athletes. I just realized I had enough content that I wanted to share and that people enjoyed receiving it."

Writing the book, McBean says, forced her to re-examine her viewpoint in detail. It also meant sharing some personal failures — times she wanted to quit or refuse to follow her own credo.

"The best mentors don't share only their motivational success stories," she said. "I believe the best mentors are the one who share their inspirational mistakes and how you recover from those mistakes and what you learn from those mistakes.

"And I think that's why the 'I learned to row when I was 17' book would have been such a painful exercise for me, because I really didn't see at first what I had learned from just the rowing — because I go to an Olympics and I won. Where's the lesson in that? I went to another Olympics and I won.

"There's nothing interesting to me there, let alone somebody else. So when I talk about all the times that I'm an idiot or I made a mistake or I struggled, that's I think where way more learning comes from."

She hopes the book, whose subtitle is "How Small Steps Can Help You Achieve Big Goals," will lead to people opening their eyes to what they are capable of — or just opening new doors.

You don't need Olympic credentials, she says.

"You can be ambitious and competitive in things where there's no finish line, and there actually is no competition. And that's OK."

"The Power of More" comes out May 19.

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"The Power of More," by Marnie McBean, 251 pages, Greystone Books, $22.95.

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