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5 Ways Olympians Succeed, and So Can You!

I’ve always been a sports enthusiast and fan, and with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in full swing, my family and I are attempting to take in as much as possible in the wee hours of the morning or during primetime coverage in the evenings here in the United States.

I’m also one who spends a fair amount of time in proactive and reflective thought and analysis on varying topics; and this week I’ve been mulling over and analyzing why Olympians succeed, and how I can apply those learnings personally or in my professional life.  Here are my 5 Ways Olympians Succeed, and So Can You! 

1. Talent & Skill Identification and Development 

Olympians here in the United States typically started their athletic careers within one of the many youth sports programs found across the country.  Whether their journey began in a local YMCA basketball program, an afterschool ping pong program, or youth soccer/rugby/lacrosse/baseball league to name a few…Olympians were just like you and me, they started in humble beginnings but someone, a parent, a coach, a friend realized there was something different in that athlete…and that was likely identifying a specific talent or skill which could be developed into something, or that the athlete had potential.

Much like athletes, we all have talents and skills that are unique to us.  If we, or others identify them, we have the potential to develop these talents and skills into useful, productive, profitable, high performing attributes in our careers or in our respective organizations.  Regardless of talent or skill, everyone can contribute to the greater good of humanity, society, secular, ecclesastical, or corporate organizations and your personal well-being and influence on others.  Talent and skill identification and development are crucial to Olympians and they should be crucial to you!  

Challenge: Identify a talent or skill you’d like to develop, and register for a free or low cost online course through LinkedIn Learning, Coursera.org, Udemy.com, MOOC.org, or some other platform.       

2. Finding the Right Influencers, Mentors, and Coaches

Olympians and high-performing people, regardless of their environment, will espouse the importance of utilizing influencers, mentors, and coaches.  Some people use these terms interchangeably however may I offer my personal point of view?

InfluencersI’m not talking about the “social media influencers” although they can be viewed that way by some.  I’m talking about individuals who instill philosophical, ideological, and value-based frameworks on you personally.  Most of us probably have had parental influence; perhaps a “captain of industry”, or an academic who’s shaped who you’ve become and espouse to be.  I consider myself fortunate to consider my professional primary influencers to be Jon M Huntsman Sr, Clayton Christensen, with secondary influencers being Mark WeinbergerWarren Buffett, Steve Jobs, and Taiichi Ohno.  In my mind, influencers typically are people you may not have a personal relationship with, however they’ve influenced your philosophy, ideology, or value system.  Each of these influencers have brought/contributed something unique and valuable to me.

MentorsI’ve generally sought out mentors who augment and complement my influencers’ principles or I’ve learned to value their contributions, thoughts, and advice when my philosophical, ideological, or values come into conflict, or when I seek clarity, or deeper understanding and meaning of the same.  Mentors are generally people I have had a personal relationship with, although not always, however they’ve usually been an observer of my career, or even a former superior/boss.  It’s been my experience that the relationship and interaction is rather socratic in nature.  My mentors have varied from time to time, however I’m grateful for their contributions to my career… DJ Morgan, Steve Kletzok, Jill Harlamert, Glen Ferguson, Stephen Catton, Rick Cimino, Lee Angus, Linda Castaneda, Cordry Johns, Michael Yadgar, and Gary Ramos.  Each of these former colleagues, and professional relationships have helped me navigate my career while keeping those things most important in check.

CoachesI traditionally engage coaches for specialization purposes, at times, some of my mentors have acted as coaches however suffice it to be said coaches help fine tune aspects of my trade.  Whether it be executive coaching, program/project management coaching, or technology, relationship, communication, etc… Coaches typically know you well, can and will give feedback candidly and in a manner that you will understand immediately, and will help you with suggestions and may help make appropriate adjustments to be more effective and efficient.  Again, I’m immensely grateful for the coaching relationships I’ve had over the years, a few of my key coaches over the years are; Cordry Johns, Preeti Chapman, Bruce Cameron, Kent Cys, Jeremy Kloubec, Pat Jelinek, Kirk Hazlip, Jill Harlamert, and DJ Morgan.

You don’t have to watch too many ESPN 30 for 30 segments to realize athletes and Olympians alike seek out influencers, mentors, and coaches.  Because they realize the value of accountability, motivation, inspiration, instruction, candid feedback, and perfecting of their craft!

Challenge: Make a list of your influencers, mentors, and coaches.  Evaluate if you need to check in with them.  If you’ve not had formal mentors or coaches, consider 

3. Strategic Planners & Tactical Executioners

Olympians are one of the single greatest examples of strategic planning carried through to tactical execution.  Depending on their chosen sports or disciplines, they work together with their team of coaches, advisors, regulatory bodies, nutritionists, doctors, athletic trainers, physical therapists, strength and conditioning coaches, choreographers, and specialists to pull together a comprehensive strategic plan which is aimed at critical milestones throughout the athlete’s entire journey to Olympics.  These plans, once put in place, are then executed with tactical precision with the help of this team.  Many do not realize the dedication, sacrifice and hard work it takes to compete and succeed at such a high level however we can all learn from such individuals.

While I’ve never been an Olympian, I do have a daughter and son who compete at the national and international level of their chosen sport.  I can tell you first hand the strategic plans going into each competitive season is built on one another, and the commitment of the athlete, coach, choreographer, trainer, and parents are critical to the success of implementing the tactical execution which is a minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day, week to week, month to month, and year to year effort.  Consistent adherence to and investment in the strategy determines the progress toward the overarching goals.  

High performing organizations and people can relate to such plans and execution; it is how they’ve become “high performing organizations and people”.    

Challenge: Review and evaluate your personal/professional strategic plan.  Are there gaps in your strategy that are keeping you from executing the plan?  Are there adjustments required to make you or your organization high performing?  Do you need a mentor or coach?   

4. Measure What Matters, Refine & Execute the Plan

Olympians live in a world where precision of mind, body, spirit, and determination converge with the unyielding measurement of time and performance.  Throughout the execution of the plan athletes and coaches measure things in complex mathematics, such as angle of entry, volume and mass movement and manipulation, position and distance of apparatus, to name a few.  As athletes progress and gain proficiency and excellence in a particular discipline, movement, or skill as reflected in the consistent measurements taken regularly, the tactical plan is then refined and the athlete or team continues to execute the plan.

We in our personal and professional worlds can do the same.  We can periodically pause and take measurements of critical aspects of our lives and organizations.  The key here is to measure what truly matters, and not measure for the sake of measuring.  If for instance we are struggling living paycheck to paycheck in our attempts to strive for personal finance excellence; we can measure our budget with a simple tracking of income and expenditures, and establish a simple  budget that can be measured.  As we become more sufficient and more financially savvy we look at more complex measurements and solutions, and refinement of our plans.  

Challenge: Review and evaluate if you are measuring what matters to you and your organization, and that it coincides with your strategy and goals.  Evaluate if you are consistently refining your plan and executing against the new refined plan.

  5. Passion, Perseverance, & Consistency

If I were asked what I admire most about Olympians it would be their passion, perseverance, and consistency!  For instance, if you’ve watched any of the athlete spotlights over the past few days you’ll recall many examples of athletes demonstration of these attributes as the world shutdown during the global pandemic; you had distance swimmers and synchronized swimmers practicing in the equivalent of a backyard pool; we had world class athletes that could not train in “proper” training facilities as fitness clubs, studios, and facilities shutdown.  Through it all, you can tell each of them has an unusual amount of passion, perseverance, and consistency.  Let me dive into the importance of each of these attributes for a moment.

Passionis critical to you and your organization’s success.  If you love what you are doing it is going to be easier to sell your solutions, services, and skills.  Likewise, you’ll be prepared to persevere through challenging times or obstacles that may be encountered.

Perseverance – is a skill that can be developed, and usually it is best developed during times of adversity.  It’s crucial to learn how to look back on the good times and remember/recall how you got to those good times.  It’s imperative to learn from the tough/hard times and realize that you can push through and do hard things and learn from this experience, and learn that personal resilience is made in your mind and how you react to adversity.  Olympians and athletes alike learn this skill early on in their competitive careers and they use perseverance to hone their craft and skills.

Consistency – every one of the 10,000 plus Olympians participating in Tokyo this month understands the value of consistency.  They understand that “trusting the plan”, “trusting the process”, and “trusting the repetitiveness” of mastering their respective craft is requisite and necessary.

Challenge: Review and evaluate if you are measuring what matters to you and your organization, and that it coincides with your strategy and goals.  Evaluate if you are consistently refining your plan and executing against the new refined plan.

If you’re like me and find the Olympic motto Citius, Altius, Fortius (faster, higher, stronger) inspiring, chances are you can/will find ways to implement, reflect, or refine these 5 Ways Olympians Succeed, so you can strive for personal or organizational excellence and high performance. 

Adam Anderson is Mindset Consulting’s Managing Director of SAP, Managed Services, & Delivery Excellence. He's held executive leadership roles both in consulting and in industry throughout his career and a former SAP Customer Advisory Council member for SAP S/4HANA Cloud and holds certifications as an SAP Solution Architect and Systems Integration & Technology Delivery Lead. His passion is driving business innovation through business-led, technology enabled solutions via a simple, standard, and efficient mindset. Adam lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with his wife and three children, and can often be found ferrying the family around to baton twirling competitions and football games.

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