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The Gold Medal Mindset: 8 Olympic Quotes for Entrepreneurs

By:     Topics: Entrepreneurship

Great Olympians and entrepreneurs share the mindset of a champion.

In honor of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, I present eight of the greatest Olympic quotes of all time from American athletes – and I’ve spun them into lessons for entrepreneurial success.

 

#1 Your Biggest Competition is You

 

“The only victory that counts is the one over yourself.”

Jesse Owens, American Sprinter and Long Jumper

When Jesse Owens won four gold medals in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, he didn’t just defeat athletes from all over the world. He also helped defeat the message of “Aryan racial superiority” that Adolph Hitler hoped the Germany-held games would spread.

In a way, Owens was racing against racism. But in his mind, he was just racing against himself. As Owens set a world record in 100m dash, the only competition that mattered was the internal battle going on in Owens’ body and mind.

Entrepreneurs can be Their Own Greatest Enemy – or Ally

While business is perceived as a very competitive environment, most startups are faced with little outside competition early on. A successful idea for a new business, product, or website usually exists in a niche of its own, free from direct competition.

The battle then, is in the mind of the entrepreneur. Does she or he have the ingenuity, the drive, and the perseverance to turn their idea into reality?

Adopting the Gold Medal Mindset:

“I Didn’t Set Out to Beat the World; I Just Set Out to Do My Absolute Best.”

Al Oerter, four-time gold medal winner in the discus throw

Instead of thinking about every other business, product, or website as your competition, focus your competitive energy internally. When you create an excellent, one-of-a-kind business, the competition is irrelevant.

 

#2 Do What You Love

“The first thing is to love your sport. Never do it to please someone else. It has to be yours.”

Peggy Fleming, gold medalist in figure skating in 1968

If you’ve heard this advice before, that’s because it’s profound and important.

When Peggy Flemming was 12 years old, her coach William Kipp died suddenly in a plane crash. If it weren’t for her intense love for figure skating, she surely would have been discouraged from continuing her training with a new coach. Instead, she won Olympic gold eight years later.

Entrepreneurs Must Love their Businesses

If you start a business that you don’t really care about, you’re going to be hard-pressed to persevere when the going gets tough. Centering your business on something you truly love and believe in is the foundation for entrepreneurial success.

Adopting the Gold Medal Mindset:

No Olympian has ever medaled in an event they didn’t like. In life, we should all do what we love and love what we do.

 

#3 Ignore Nay-Sayers

 

“When anyone tells me I can’t do anything, I’m just not listening anymore.”

Florence Griffith-Joyner, three-time gold medalist in 1988

Florence Griffith-Joyner (a.k.a. “Flo-Jo”) is considered the fastest woman of all time, based on the fact that she holds the record in both the 100m and 200m. But even she had people telling her that she didn’t have what it takes to win gold.

Entrepreneurs Inevitably have Critics

One difficult lesson for every entrepreneur to learn is how to separate positive, constructive criticism from useless, pessimistic nay-saying. The former helps you adjust your business and make it more successful, the latter will simply discourage you from continuing on your path to success.

Some people simply don’t believe that greatness can be achieved. They’ll tell you that your business is destined to fail, but they would have told the same thing to Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg. In other words, their opinion isn’t worth your time.

Adopting the Gold Medal Mindset:

At every sporting event, there’s someone booing. At every comedy show, there’s a heckler. And for every musician, there’s a music critic.

Recognize that nay-sayers are going to be there no matter what, so there’s no reason to take it personally.  Instead, have Flo-Jo’s attitude and stop listening when someone tells you that you can’t do something.

 

#4 Don’t Get Caught Up with Tomorrow

“I’m trying to do the best I can. I’m not concerned with tomorrow, but with what goes on today.”

Mark Spitz, gold medalist in swimming in 1972 and 1968

There’s an old sports cliché: “We’re just going to take it one day at a time.”

But like most clichés, there’s a good reason it’s so often repeated.

The only day you can accomplish anything is today. On training days, you can’t be day-dreaming about winning the main event. When the day has finally come for you to perform, all you can focus on is your performance – not the medal ceremony.

Entrepreneurs Can’t Afford to Daydream

Sometimes it feels like a catch-22: you can’t succeed as an entrepreneur unless you have a great vision for the future, but you also can’t succeed if you’re always looking ahead and never taking care of the grunt-work of building your business day-in-and-day-out.

Successful entrepreneurs manage to do both. But they spend much more time focusing on the present than imagining how great their businesses will be down the road.

Adopting the Gold Medal Mindset:

Remember that for every second an Olympic medalist stands on the podium, they’ve spent hundreds of hours in practice facilities.

 

#5 Success is Journey

“It’s all about the journey, not the outcome.”

Carl Lewis, gold medalist in 1996, 1992, 1988

As a track-and-field athlete, there’s no greater outcome than setting a world record. Lewis set multiple world records and won nine gold medals, so he knows all about achieving the pinnacle of success.

Yet he says “it’s all about the journey.”

Entrepreneurs must Enjoy the Road Up

As an entrepreneur, there’s always going to be another milestone. Build a million dollar company… and you’re likely to want to build it up to 100 million. This isn’t a problem – unless you expect to get satisfaction and happiness from reaching these ever-changing milestones.

True contentment comes from appreciating the daily struggle.

Adopting the Gold Medal Mindset:

“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, founder of modern Olympic Games

 

#6 Cherish the Challenges

“Hard days are the best because that’s where champions are made. So if you push through the hard days you can get through anything.”

Gabby Douglas, two-time gold medal winner in the 2012 London Olympic Games

Gabby Douglas has had her fair share of hard days – especially in the last week. In this summer’s London Olympics, he’s received criticism for her hairstyle and for shaky performances in individual events.

But for a 16-year-old, she has a remarkably mature perspective on taking on challenges. Her rigorous training schedule has taught her the old adage that “the strongest steel is forged in the hottest fires.”

Entrepreneurs Benefit from Enduring Challenges

While building your business, you’ll inevitably face major difficulties. But it’s meeting and overcoming today’s challenges that empowers you to face the challenges of tomorrow.

Adopting the Gold Medal Mindset:

Next time you’re feeling frustrated by a difficult client or a technical problem with your website, ask yourself how facing this challenge will help make you a better entrepreneur in the future.

 

#7 Be Prepared when Your Moment Comes

“I am building a fire, and every day I train, I add more fuel. At just the right moment, I light the match.”

Mia Hamm, gold medalist in women’s football in 2004 and 1996

As a football player, you train for thousands of hours all in preparation of one match: the championship.

When that big game comes, the players who perform are those who prepared fully.

Entrepreneurs Should be Ready for their Moment

As an entrepreneur, you never know when your big opportunity to will come or in what form it will present itself to you. That’s why it’s so important to be constantly preparing and adding “more fuel” to your fire every day.

Adopting the Gold Medal Mindset:

“Olympics — A lifetime of training for just ten seconds.”

Jesse Owens

Think about the different ways the different big opportunities that could take your business to the next level. Maybe a viral blog post sends a deluge of traffic to your site. Maybe Google sends you an email that expresses an interest in your services. Maybe you get stuck in an elevator with Bill Gates.

When your big moment comes, make sure you’re ready to capitalize.

 

#8 Greatness is About Rising to Yourself

“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.”

Wilma Rudolph, gold medalist in athletics in 1960 and bronze medalist in 1956

Every human being is capable of accomplishing great things.

Gold medalists and successful entrepreneurs are people who make the decision to rise to their personal potential for greatness.

 

5 More Quotes from Olympians

#1 Accept Failure as Part of Success

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Michael Jordan, gold medalist in basketball in 1992 and 1984

#2 Hard Work is the Silver Bullet

“Nothing can substitute for just plain hard work.”

Andre Agassi, gold medalist in tennis in 1996

#3 Your Age is Just a Number

“Never put an age limit on your dreams.”

Dara Torres, gold medalist in swimming in 2000, 1992 and 1984, silver medalist in 2008 and 1988 and bronze medalist in 2000 and 1988

#4 You Have to Take Risks

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”
Muhammad Ali, gold medalist in boxing in 1960

#5 Impossible is Nothing

“I wouldn’t say anything is impossible. I think that everything is possible as long as you put your mind to it and put the work and time into it.”

Michael Phelps, gold medalist in swimming in 2008, 2004, and 2012

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