Winning your gold

As we watch the amazing feats of athleticism performed by thousands of dedicated Olympic athletes from all over the world, I wonder how many people devote Olympian time, energy, discipline, and focus to their passions, their dreams, or their businesses.

What can business leaders learn from Olympic athletes?

1. Get great advice. Listen to smart people. Throughout the London Olympics, reporters asked countless athletes about how they managed the pressure, the intensity of the competition, and how they managed to be the best in the world. Upon winning her first gold medal, Missy Franklin replied, “My coach told me …” and “I tried to focus on what my coach said which was …” Listening to the right people is a huge part of being successful. Listen to those who help you move forward, who help you focus, and to those people who want you to succeed.

2. Stay focused on the goal. Focus every day on the important aspects of your business. What is going to make you and your business successful? Accomplish those activities that make your business more profitable, and make you a better leader and manager.

3. Be motivated and dedicated. Getting up at three in the morning is hard. Getting up at three in the morning every day for 11 years to go swim three miles, or to practice for four hours on a four-inch wide balance beam before school starts requires amazing motivation and dedication. Like world-class athletes, achieving excellence means consistent sacrifice and dedication. It means total commitment every day. It is why these people are Olympic athletes.

4. Go for the gold. What is your equivalent of a gold medal in your world? What is ultimate success for you? Knowing what you want to achieve is a huge step toward fulfillment. Happy and successful business leaders are clear about the “gold medal” that is been written into their business plan. They know exactly where they want to go, what they intend to achieve, and when they intend to achieve it. The gold medal gives us something to strive for in our daily lives.

5. Play to win! Yes, every athlete graciously tells the world’s media “It is an honor just to be here representing my country” and no doubt that is true. But they are crushed when their performance falls short. The tears of frustration and sadness are genuine as these competitors are pursuing their life’s dream, and win or lose, they are hoping to do their best. The thrill of a medal win is monumental, while the failure is devastating. For many of these young athletes, they have to cope with the disappointment of their lives in one event and then regroup, refocus, and go on to compete in another event very quickly. The ability to bounce back after defeat and continue to play to win is exemplified in every event at the Olympics. They are playing to win, and they are consistently giving every event everything they have to perform at their very best.

So maybe today, in honor of our 2012 Olympic representatives in London, let’s do our best, give it our all, and go for the gold.

Mary C. Kelly, PhD is CEO of Productive Leaders.