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Worthy of the Gold: Business Takeways from Olympic Athletes

By Jaylyn Schumpert

The 2012 Summer Olympics, officially the Games of the XXX Olympiad, began this past Friday and will continue for the next two weeks. Between July 27th and August 12th an estimated 10,500 athletes from 204 National Olympic Committees will compete for the chance to win an Olympic Medal.

The Olympic athletes can teach us a great deal and many of their lessons can apply to the corporate world as well as the athletic arena. Persistence, hard work, training, strategy, perseverance, goal setting, and preparedness are all valuable in business as well as in sports. While there are countless lessons to be learned, here are a few key business takeaways from the Olympic athletes:

Training is important!

Athletes train for years for the chance to compete in the Olympics. Michael Phelps, American swimmer and Olympic athlete since 2004, has one of the most physically demanding training routines ever. According to an article by Muscle Prodigy, Phelps trains 5-6 hours a day, 6 days a week and swims a minimum of 80,000 meters a week (nearly 50 miles) during peak training phases. His diet consists of more than 12,000 calories a day!

Luckily, business training doesn’t require you to consume 12,000 calories a day or swim 50 miles a week, but it is something that you need to do on a continual basis. The business world is constantly evolving, and as a result so should you. Training is how you can expand and polish your skills, abilities, and experience. You should always take advantage of training and development opportunities provided by your organization, local colleges, or business networks.

Know your competition!

In addition to the hours and hours athletes put into training for the Olympics, they also spend a great deal of time studying their competition. Jen Kessy and April Ross, one of the women’s American beach volleyball teams, is making their Olympic debut this year and they are taking every opponent seriously. In their first match, Kessy and Ross found themselves facing an Argentinean team that they had not seen on the FIVB World Tour. Instead of looking past this team to focus on tougher opponents, they scoured YouTube for video of their Argentinean opponents and studied a Pan American tournament video provided by their coach.

One of the most important things you can do in business is to distinguish yourself from your competition. In order to do that you must learn as much as you can about competing businesses. You need to research and find out what products they sell, what services they provide, what industries are their strongest, what geographic area they cover, etc. Differentiating your business from similar businesses is a key way to turn prospects in to customers and win market share.

Set goals!

It is a safe bet that the ultimate goal for all Olympic athletes is to win a gold medal; however, they have had to establish and achieve many other goals before getting the opportunity to compete in the Olympics. For Ariel Hsing, American table tennis player, not all goals on her Olympic journey have been related to her sport. Ariel has had to focus on academic goals as well as sports-related goals. Since elementary school, Ariel’s parents have required her to get straight A’s in order for her to keep playing table tennis. Now a junior in high school, Ariel has, so far, managed to hold up her end of the deal but admits that it hasn’t always been easy.

Goals are a crucial part of building your self-confidence as they give you strength and assurance about what you are doing presently and in the future. They allow you to take control of your life and career, and live it to the fullest. Even more so, clear and compelling goals provide focus and direction for your actions at any given time. Make sure you set smaller goals that will help you achieve your ultimate goal; create milestones with dates that you can work on daily, weekly, and monthly. Prioritize your goals now and make them work for you! Invest in your present moments so they can produce a future return on investment.

The Summer Olympics only occur every four years, but the lessons demonstrated by the athletes can be applied to your professional and personal life year-round!

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.” Pierre de Coubertin (primarily responsible for the revival of the Olympic Games in 1894)

Can you think of some additional takeaways from the Olympics or the Olympic athletes that can be applied to the business world?

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