Five lessons every entrepreneur can learn from watching the OlympicsBY ANISA HASSAN
I couldn’t stop watching the Olympics especially the Men’s Badminton Finals between Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia and Lin Dan of China on Sunday night. It was riveting right to the very end. I don’t find myself rooting for any particular country or person but I’m always in awe of the athletes and how they’ve made it that far.
Scoring the winning goal, touching the finish line, running the fastest time to break the world record – they all require grit, discipline and passion – vital ingredients for fundamental success. Similarly, top on every entrepreneur’s mind is how do I succeed? How far can my business take me?
Here are my 5 lessons on what it takes to be “in the zone” and do whatever it accomplish success the way the Olympians dream of clasping that gold medal.
1. Begin with the end in mind
For the Olympian, the end is stepping onto that podium adorned with a medal around the neck, crowd roaring in jubilation and national anthem playing in the background. Before a mile is run, a lap is swum or a workout done, this is what the professional athlete has in mind.
As a business owner, you need to have a vision of this end too. Do you want to own a chain of restaurants? Your own fashion line? A speaking circuit that takes you internationally? Well, don’t worry if it appears colossal. No Olympians started their journey by thinking small either.
And as a saying goes, “If your dream doesn’t scare you, it isn’t big enough’. Paint this end picture as lucidly as possible and let it consume you. It helps the athlete get out of bed each morning and it’ll do the same for you.
2. Preparation and practice
For the last four years, maybe longer for others, these athletes have not only envisioned themselves in London but they’ve been preparing and practicing mentally and physically to bring themselves to peak performance. They’ve been pounding the track, pulling and stretching every muscles in the pool and spent endless hours on end practicing to be precise with their targets. Their peak physical condition along with their highest level of skills in their chosen fields accord them that spot at the Olympics.
In his book, The Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell mentioned the need to spend 10,000 hours of practice to become a true expert.
Like the Olympians, your business is your career. Even when you think that you’ve done enough, there’s always more that you can do to hone your craft and get better. Read, research, practice and do all you can to give yourself the edge. Your business will succeed only when you start succeeding and nothing can compensate preparation and hard work.
3. Discipline is key
For the individual who is not an athlete, discipline is normally perceived as a dirty word, often deemed as a form of punishment. However, it’s an ostensible hallmark amongst world class athletes and it’s easy to point out why. Discipline ensures you get to 10,000 hours even though you’re bored at 1000.
Discipline says you need to do it one more time because it’ll make you better and the good news is that it doesn’t lie. Need proof, observe the life of any world class athlete. The trait you’ll always find is discipline.
The entrepreneur must plan, conduct research, explore different alternatives, analyze different roads to follow and finally with a well developed plan he or she might launch the business. It is in this initial process where many entrepreneurs get lost in the flurry of details because their lack of discipline prevents them from making it to the business launch stage. Having initiatives is one thing, having the discipline to see them through is another.
4. Be gracious in defeat but never allow failure to be final
Athletes know that defeat is part of the deal. Watching Badminton maestro Lee Chong Wei crumble after losing just 2 points in the rubber set Badminton Finals was simply heart wrenching. Fighting back tears, he was still gracious enough to congratulate his worthy opponent.
Similarly, Roger Bannister, an athlete in the 1952 Olympics came in fourth in his first attempt at the 1500 meter race. But Bannister would later become the man who broke the “impossible record” of clocking the four-minute mile. He quipped that had he won a “gold medal” in his first try, he would have probably retired and not pursued the four- minute mile breakthrough instead.
In business, there are remarkable tales of refusals to despair. Despite the finger-licking goodness of his fried chicken recipe, the founder of KFC, Colonel Sanders had to endure 1,000 rejections of his big idea before finding a restaurant that liked it.
Jack Canfield, the author of the wildly successful series of “Chicken Soup for the soul” also had his manuscript rejected by 140 publishers but it had since gone on to become a 65 book series and sold over 80 million copies. Business owners need to build the mental fortitude that success and failure is part of the same coin. Building resilience to bounce back higher after a setback is a necessary skill that business owners should equip themselves with.
5. Bask in your successes but never let it distract
The Olympian is no stranger to success; in fact he or she is well acquainted with it. Being called up to the national team in itself might be a success and worthy to be celebrated. Yet, the athlete knows that is not the goal. The goal is to clasp that elusive gold medal.
Along the way you as the owner of a business will have success. They can surface in the form of compliments from clients or a massively unprecedented contract in recognition of your efforts. Don’t let it distract you from your goal.
So many entrepreneurs fizzle out because they let triumphs get to their heads. Bask in it and pop the champagne if it pleases you and then know that you still need to get back to work, just like the Olympians would.