Olympic Dreams and Lessons Learned…

Posted: August 12, 2012 by Chuck Matthews in Leadership, People, Planning

“If you want to be successful, it’s just this simple. Know what you are doing. Love what you are doing.  Believe in what you are doing.”  — Will Rogers

With the closing ceremony of the Games of the XXX Summer Olympiad upon us, it gives us time to pause and reflect on the dreams, hopes, fears, triumphs and near triumphs that comprise our lives.  It does not really matter if you are into sports or not, the lessons we take away from an event such as the Olympics are universal and timeless.  This is especially true when we view them in the context of business and life.

My late father was neither an Olympian nor an athlete.  He was, however, a child of the depression, a polio survivor, a WWII veteran, husband, father and successful entrepreneur.  Growing up, I still recall watching the Olympics on television with him, not fully realizing at the time, but eventually coming to know how profoundly his life and business lessons intersected with those Olympic dreams unfolding on the screen before us.  Here are just three of those lessons and key takeaways as you continue on your entrepreneurial journeys.

It’s not about the performance, it’s about the preparation

The French scientist, Louis Pasteur, is credited with saying, “Chance favors only the prepared mind.”  I heard this quote first from my father while watching the Olympics and working with him in our family automotive business.  Preparation and practice for any task, be it an Olympic or an entrepreneurial dream, is ultimately the key to its successful execution.  My father intuitively understood the necessity and value of preparation for both the big picture and the task at hand.

Of course, this is the conundrum of sports, life and business – we tend to see Olympic triumph (e.g., Olympic and World Records) and entrepreneurial success (e.g., brands that have become household names and wealth creation) as an outcome, not the rigorous and often lengthy process that comprises the real path to success.  Key takeaway: a little planning, a little strategy, and a little luck.  The more you do of the first two, the more you get of the third one.

Hard work, overcoming obstacles, and never stop learning

To paraphrase the promotional video featuring Ryan Lochte’s competing in the 2012 London Games, you cannot buy or wish your way to the Olympics.  You have to earn it and in his case he had to swim his way there.  It takes a considerable amount of hard work, as well as personal and professional sacrifice and it won’t be without challenges.

In 1984, my mother died suddenly from a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm in January.  It was difficult to get excited about anything that year, let alone the Olympics.  I went to my father’s house to celebrate his birthday and the opening ceremony for the Los Angeles Olympics was on the television. Al Oerter, four time Olympic gold medalist in the discus, was carrying the Olympic flag. I had thrown the discus in high school and vividly recalled his taking that fourth gold medal in Mexico City in 1968.  My father said it was because he never stopped learning, working and trying.  He went on to surprise me with how much he knew about the challenges that Al Oerter faced: a near fatal car accident, overcoming injuries, being the underdog, and more.  Key takeaway: Never underestimate the value of hard work, sacrifice, formal, informal and life-long learning.

The key to success

Olympic and entrepreneurial successes are cut from the same bolt of cloth – a tapestry of dreams, aspirations, hard work, drive determination, dedication, and faith in oneself.  The key to Olympic and entrepreneurial success: all the above and more.

“This above all: to thine own self be true…” Polonius to his son Laertes in Hamlet. Long before I read this in school, I heard my father say it to me on a number of occasions.  Okay, it was not quite in the pure Elizabethan prose of Shakespeare, more of a “Be true to yourself and you cannot go wrong” style. Just as my father was a coach and mentor to me, we all need to heed the words of our coaches.  In the end, though, we must be our own best counsel and follow our dreams.

This August 14th, my father would have celebrated his 87th birthday. As I watch the closing ceremony of the XXX Olympiad, I will be thinking of him. Key takeaway: Take time to reflect on your own Olympic and entrepreneurial dreams.

Till next time, all the best for continued entrepreneurial success!  For more information on this and other columns from The Entrepreneurs, please visit www.cincyentre.com.

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