The Olympics have come and gone. I loved it; perhaps because it was on my timezone but it is a fascinating experience to watch. All the athletes who come out to compete after four or more years of hard training and sacrifice. I was enthralled and I know I wasn’t the only one.
I got to thinking about the Olympics and how many parallels there are between the sporting world and the business world. These are my four takeaways from watching the Olympics.
# 1. Be prepared to put in the effort
Every article you read about the Olympics will always feature the importance of focus. There’s a reason for that – because it’s truism. Athletes on top of their field have made many sacrifices to focus on what they want to achieve. Long hours in the pool, training for hours twice a day, watching what they eat, what they drink, what they sleep and for long.
It’s a long road that requires focus, determination and hard work. Raw talent just won’t cut it. You need to put in the time and resource required to achieve your goals.
Many business owners focus on their end goal and they do sacrifice their personal time to grow their business. But how many put the same effort into their business as athletes do into their sport?
Ask yourself honestly do you persevere and persevere when times are good and when times are tough? Is daily self development on your to do list?
A business owner once said to me that he’s prepared to get great at marketing. Every day except for Wednesday; he was going to spend time marketing his business. I was curious and asked why not Wednesday? He said that he plays poker with a group of friends and he’s not going to change that. I’ve often thought about him – whether he was right or not. Personal time is important. But when I see Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps or indeed Ireland’s own Katie Taylor, I think would they stop training on a Wednesday to play a game of poker with friends? I think not.
Running a successful business (whatever your definition of it is) requires a determination that others are not prepared to do. That could be your tenth of a second win over your competitors.
# 2. Gold is just a colour
I admire all the gold medalists and you’ll often read in business articles or news papers that nobody remembers who gets silver. A tenth of a second can separate gold and silver or bronze and fourth.
It’s all true of course but for some athletes reaching the Olympics was gold. Running or getting a personal best was their gold. Beating their own record was akin to a gold medal.
As Shakespeare once wrote “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” So yes, gold is great. But it’s just a colour. Sometimes you want a gold medal; other times you just want your gold.
Be proud of your own achievements. And don’t let anyone else dictate what your gold is or should be. Only you decide what your gold is.
# 3. Support is essential
No man (or woman) is an island that was so clear in the Olympics. Hailing from Ireland, it’s hard not to include the Irish boxing team in any discussion about the Olympics. At every interview of every boxer, the head performance coach was there by their side. Behind them was the coach and the team.
No business can survive on their own and I just recently heard Simon Woodroffe of Yo! Sushi saying that he wished he was brave enough to hire good people early on. If you think you can do it all by yourself, you’re wrong. A support team – whether it’s an actual team, a virtual team or a network of fellow business owners – is crucial for survival and growth.
Get yourself a team and surround yourself with like-minded individuals.
# 4. Celebrate your achievements
At the end of a huge achievement, it’s important to own it. And a great way to own it is to celebrate it. The closing ceremony of the Olympics highlighted just how important a celebration is. While you may not have the Spice Girls re-uniting for your celebrations, the act of celebration is enough.
Looking at the athletes all together – those with medals around their neck and those that didn’t, it just shows that each of them had fun at that party. Each is an Olympian – an accolade in itself.
No matter the size of your achievement, it’s important to celebrate it, cherish it and own it.
We have to wait another four years for the Olympics and some athletes after a brief spell of relaxation will start preparing for Rio in 2016. They will return to that sheer determination and focus that they had training for London.
As we look around to fill the void of the Olympics, perhaps we should look to our sporting brethren for inspiration. For the final lap of the year, maybe we should train, focus and use our time to sprint to the final and amaze ourselves at just how much we can achieve once we put our minds to it.