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The best mistake of: Cees Juffermans

“I remember thinking: “what am I supposed to do now?” This was my dream. This was what I had been dreaming about as a young boy. And that one chance was gone because of my own stupid mistake.”

Sometimes we are too afraid of making mistakes, that out of fear for the possible consequences, we don’t take any action.  Afraid to fail, afraid about what our environment thinks about it, afraid that it doesn’t fit in our “Instagrammable perfect life”…

Which is such a shame, because making mistakes is THE way to learn and develop yourself. That is why we at Doors Open celebrate making mistakes! Every month we interview entrepreneurs, leaders, professional athletes… People who, just like you, have gotten to where they are by failing and standing up again.They have told us about their best mistake: a mistake which has taught them a lot and has helped them greatly in their development.

In this edition:

Cees Juffermans

Residence: Stompwijk

Profession: former olympic athlete, Chief Marketing Officer at the Invictus Games 2020.

On 12 February 2006 Cees Juffermans has the chance to write history in Dutch sports during the Olympic games in Turin. He was in the semi-finals of the 1500 meters short track. The final in sight, chance of winning a medal, never before has a Dutch shottracker gotten so far. Although in that moment the sport was relatively unknown in the Netherlands, on this sunday all of a sudden Cees became known worldwide. But not the way he was hoping he would…

Before the lenses of hundreds of cameras, thousands of spectators in the stadium and millions of viewers on TV, the Stompwijker was taken down by another skater in the last curve. In short track this means an automatic free pass to the next round. The finals. But it only counts if you complete the full round. And that is what Cees doesn’t do. Just a few meters before the finish he steps off the ice. In sports, this is counted as resignation, as a “did not finish”. Gone was his spot in the final, the chance of winning a medal. This mistake makes Cees fall back to 18th place in the final ranking and shatters his childhood dream.

What did you do when you realized what had happened?

“I only realized what has happened when I was in the changing room. I know the rules. Even worse: during my training the rules where always emphasized.  Whatever happens, always make sure you cross the finish line. I have no clue why I stepped off the ice early. I must have had a complete black-out.”

As a top athlete you are certainly not alone, you have a whole team around you. Even so Cees does not blame anyone else but himself. “Of course I can think “why did nobody warn me that I had to finish the race in that moment?” But in the end the responsibility lies on my shoulders. Therefore, shortly after my mistake I walked up to the media and made this clear.”

What did you learn from this incident?

“A lot. I still make mistakes, every day. We all do. But this is one of those mistakes you won’t ever forget. It sounds crazy, but it has done a lot for me. It made me realize that so often we are focused on the end result, even though the process to get there might be way more important than the goal itself. If you have dreams, chase them. Don’t let anyone stop you. And yes, at one point you will fall flat on your face. In my case literally. So what? You get up again. The world is not going to end.”

“Mistakes only make you stronger. Suddenly I was standing in the spotlight, everyone had an opinion. I chose to put the negative critics aside.”

It made me realize that people close to you,  do not judge you for the mistakes you make. The negative reactions were primarily from people that were not as close to me. Not only when I made this mistake by the way. Being a professional athlete can be pretty lonesome. When others my age met at the bar during the weekends, I was training extremely hard. Of course people had their own thoughts on this, but I chose not to listen to them. That is also what I really want to advise others: don’t let what others might think or say about you influence you. It is YOUR dream, and they are YOUR choices. Do what you love and remember what you are doing it for. What is the reason you get up every day? Even if you make mistakes, don’t give up and try to do it a little bit better than yesterday.”

What did you change after this mistake?

“I started looking at my athletic career differently, as a whole, instead of that one goal alone. I might not have won an Olympic medal, but I still feel like I got everything I could have out of my dream. And I am still benefiting from the experiences I had and the network I built in those years. I have also changed my perspective about what is really important to me. What do I want to “leave behind”? How can I make a change in society? The misstep in Turin really made me think. How terrible would it be if you look back on your career and you realize that you’ve only done things that others expected you to do, instead of chasing your own dreams?”


Do you want to share your best mistake? Share it to info@doors-open.nl! Maybe you are the next feature on our blog!

Doors Open - Doelen stellen - waarom lukt het niet

I spoke to an old classmate last Friday during a New Year’s drink. The same classmate I spoke to last year whilst enjoying a glass of Chardonnay.

A year ago she told me: “I’m going to do things completely different this year! I have decided to finally start my own business.” She couldn’t wait to get started and with a twinkle in her eye, she told me about her ideas of starting her own web shop for children’s clothing. At the time I had just taken a leap of faith and become a fulltime entrepreneur with Doors Open, and I had just opened the doors of Doors Open Female Hub. So I completely understood her enthusiasm.

When I asked her this year how her web shop was going – by the way, with a glass of water due to this year’s resolution of no alcohol in January – she told me that she hadn’t gotten round to it. But this year I’m really planning to get it up and running!”

My old classmate is a telling example. Because even though Instagram is full of successful, laughing goal getters, the reality is that goals more often than not end up in the trash.

Why does this happen? And more importantly, what can you do about it? I notice during my coaching sessions and when setting my own goals for the year that there are 4 questions that are essential to answer if you want to achieve your goals successfully.

Doors Open - Doelen stellen

#1 What is my  “why”?

When setting goals, we often stay on the surface too much. We only look at the outcome, at the action and not at the underlying motivation.

“I want to go to the gym more often this year” is a popular example. The gym is not a goal in itself. The goal is to feel fitter and healthier and we think that we can achieve this by going to the gym.

A turnover of € 10,000 per month is not an objective in itself. The goal is to create financial security and we think we can achieve this by a turnover of € 10,000 per month.

We often make the mistake of seeing the steps we need to take as the ultimate goal rather than looking at the underlying motivation. Why do you want to go to the gym more often? Why do you want that turnover of € 10,000 per month? Why do you want to start your own business?

I fill in this free workbook every year to find out what motivates me and which direction I want to go.

#2 How do I make it concrete?

From your “why” you will have to take concrete steps. Motvation alone is not enough. Amongst other things, I wanted to have freedom and be able to make choices. That was my underlying motivation to become a full-time entrepreneur with Doors Open and Doors Open Female Hub. But how do I make that concrete? I want to feel fitter and healthier, that is my underlying motivation. But how do I make that concrete?

In this article they cite a study in which people who want to feel fitter and healthier (motivation) and therefore go to the gym (action) increase their chances of successfully achieving this goal by one simple trick:

  • They write down where and when they start exercising.

Non-commitment is a pitfall, which is why so many goals end up in the trash. By making it really concrete, making a plan of action, you will see that the chances of success increase significantly. When I had the idea of Doors Open Female Hub, I made a concrete plan of action, including a timeline. I go to the gym twice a week at an agreed time. There’s a reason that personal trainers are so popular. You can’t stay in bed if you know that someone is waiting for you on Tuesday morning at 08.00.

Doors Open - Doelen stellen - Angst

#3 What stops me?

In the ten years that I have been working as Learning & Development expert and coach, I regularly meet people who exactly know what their underlying motivation is. They know exactly what they want. They also know in detail how to get there, what steps are needed. And yet they do not succeed in actually taking action.

This often has to do with fears. We are afraid that we do not see the desired result, we’re afraid we can’t actually do it. We see worst-case scenarios in which everything goes completely wrong. And these fears lead to a certain type of behaviour that prevents us from achieving our goals.

Tim Ferriss argues in his TedTalk that you should define your fears instead of your goals.

I also dedicate time to fear in my coaching sessions and in my masterclass  “From Dreams to Actions.” By holding up a mirror and analysing which fears stop you and which behaviour you exhibit, you will also learn what you can do to overcome your fears.

#4 I’ve achieved my goal. How do I feel?

Especially in January we tend to look ahead. What do I want to achieve this year? But it’s just as important to look back and reflect. If we do not reach our goal, reflecting helps us in finding out why it did not work. But even if you do achieve your goal, it is important to reflect. I always try to celebrate goals, no matter how small they are. I also take a moment to think: “I have achieved my goal. What am I feeling now?” Suppose you have achieved your target of € 10,000 per month, but the feeling of certainty (the underlying motivation) is not there. Then you know that money isn’t what offers you security.

Reflection is essential to prevent us from pursuing the wrong goals and, in spite of achieving the goals, not feeling the way we wanted to feel. So take the time to reflect regularly, before you proceed to the next action.

I hope that I will speak to my old classmate again next year and that she has managed to launch her web shop. And I am very curious about how she will feel.

What goals have you set and how are they going?