3 Things Olympians Taught Me about Accomplishment and Success

Co-authored with Connor Beaton

This week, 11,414 athletes step into the global spotlight. Win or lose, for many the dream was to make it to the most prestigious athletic event in the world.

They did it.

These Olympians have trained countless hours, sweat endless beads, and put their sport- their passion, above all else. Having spoken to numerous athletes ourselves, what we found is that the principles applied to being an athlete can be applied to building a business and accomplishing whatever it is we set out to do.

They beat the odds. They made it. 

In most things we do, the odds are stacked against us. Whether we look at the grade 3 class president, or the entrepreneur trying to build a successful start-up, the odds are almost always against us. But that doesn’t mean we don’t stop trying, and Olympians are the perfect example. Yes, all 11,414 of them. 
It is possible, and after breaking it down, here are a few key things we’ve learned about these people:

1. Passion isn’t good to have, it is essential.

The time required to master our craft (whether it be in sport or otherwise) takes thousands of hours. To have the passion and drive to be continually persistent is something that must be present if we want to beat the odds. 
Passion is essential because it is the fuel for our purpose driven engines. 
What makes these athletes the best in the world isn’t just thousands of hours worth of training, it’s having such a passion for their craft that they are willing to do the thousands of hours worth of training, regardless of the outcome.

2. There is not shortcut to victory. Resiliency is key.

Michael Jordan was quoted saying that he had ‘…missed more than 9000 shots in [his] career. [He] lost almost 300 games. 26 times, [he] had been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. [he] failed over and over again in [his] life. And that is why [he] succeeds.’. Applying this quote to sport and life, knowing that failing, missing, and losing is ok and a huge part of the learning process is important. 
This type of resilience calls us to look at tragedy, failure and unmet expectations with a lens of education. ‘What can I learn from this experience?’ ‘If this was trying to teach me one thing which will get me closer to my goals, what is it?’ 
Often the difference between making the cut and coming a fraction of a second behind is our ability to answer the questions we don’t want to ask in the first place. 
Resilience is: 
Getting up at 6am every morning for your workout, meditation or do our meal prep.
It’s being able to take critical feedback, integrate it and let go of our ego’s desire to simply ignore this valuable information.
Resilience is Gymnast Kerri Strug sticking her landing in the 1996 Olympics, despite having a damaged ankle, clinching gold for team USA.
It’s 4 time gold medalist Jesse Owens facing physical and racial adversity at the 1936 Olympic games in Germany.

3. Priorities have to be established.

At a conference one of us spoke at in Beverly Hills earlier this year, Kobe Bryant was interviewed shortly after his final game. When asked what he had sacrificed to get to where he is now, he replied by saying ‘nothing’. The career he built and the accomplishments that came with is were because of choices he made – not sacrifices.
He went on to say that if he didn’t achieve what he did throughout his career then it could be perceived that he would have sacrificed the success he would have had in his basketball career. He set his priorities and executed on them.
The number of missed parties and events as a result of making an Olympian’s dream come true is higher than most because choices have to be made to ensure that we can give whatever it is we are trying to accomplish the time and effort required.   
So much can be learned from the over 11,000 athletes that are fighting for gold this year in Rio. What is often overlooked, is that the principles applied at mastering a sport can also be applied to work and life outside of sport as well.
If we learn from these athletes and filter the noise of life around us, focus on the task that we prioritize to be highest, be passionate about the things that mean most to us, and ensure we are resilient along the way, who knows, perhaps we can win our own gold medal, our own way. 
See Connor’s TEDx Talk HERE, follow him on Twitter HERE.

Written by Eric Termuende

Eric Termuende is founder of the DRYVER Group., a consultancy focused on the the attraction and retention of top talent. In 2015, Eric was recognized as a Top 100 Emerging Innovators under 35 globally by American Express. He sat as Community Integration Chair for Global Shapers Calgary, a community that functions under the World Economic Forum. Eric is a former Canadian G20 YEA Delegate, representing Canada in Sydney in 2014. In 2016, Eric spoke at TEDxBCIT in Vancouver giving his presentation entitled ‘Bigger than Work’. Eric has worked and spoken with clients across the world for the National Speakers Bureau, and was VP Operations and Finance for the University of Calgary Students Union and Class Ambassador for his graduating class. Finally, Eric currently sits on the Vancouver Board of Trade Company of Young Professionals Board.

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