I know what you are thinking. I am not an athlete and there is no way I could do what they do. Having an ‘Olympic’ career does not require athletic prowess. All of us can have Olympic careers if we understand our life purpose and pursue it like those who are competing in Sochi right now. We can, in fact, learn a lot from these talented athletes by applying what they do so well.
1. Know your talents and pursue them vigorously. Most Olympic athletes learn early on in life, what they are good at and work hard to perfect their talents. Some get noticed by a coaches early on who help develop their talents and put them on course to become future Olympians. Like our Olympic athletes, we need to focus on our strengths and make sure we get the opportunity to use them each and every day. When we do, our careers will become an ‘Olympic’ experience.
2. Ability to overcome adversity. Olympic athletes know adversity and have the ability to bounce back no matter what the circumstances may be. Take Noelle Pikus-Pace, the US skeleton racer who was taken out of competition in 2005 when she was struck in the leg by a bobsled. This freak accident sidelined her for months. In Sochi, this mother of two is considered to be a top medal contender.
And then there is Japanese figure skater, Yazuru Hanyu. In 2011 he was training in the Miyai area of Japan when a massive earthquake hit. He escaped the rink without taking his skates off. The rink was eventually destroyed in the quake. His home was left heavily damaged, requiring him to spend 4 days in an emergency evacuation center.
All of us experience bumps and detours in the course of our careers. It is our ability to maintain focus and get back on track after these events that makes the difference between pursuing our passion versus settling for something else just because it was an easier path to take.
3. Be ready to work hard. Olympic athletes understand nothing comes easy and are committed to working hard to achieve their goals. When Olympic competition is your goal, the endless hours of training rerquired are a given. Sometimes perfecting a jump can take months. Take Polina Edmunds, US figure skater, for example. At age 10, Edmunds was ready to learn the double Axel, one of the most difficult maneuvers in figure skating and one that leads to triple jumps and serious competition. This benchmark maneuver did not come quickly for Edmunds. Day by day she returned to the rink to get it right. The effort took nearly a year. She did not waiver from her goal and when she finally mastered the double Axel, she could envision her future career as an Olympic figure skater.
Likewise in our careers, nothing we do is handed to us on a silver platter. That first job out of college is not intended to be the ultimate carrot. It is nothing more than a training ground for something much more meaningful down the road. We all need to put in our dues just like our Olympic athletes.
4. Enjoy the journey. Olympic athletes always have the destination in mind while embracing the journey along the way. They know the path they are on is part of the experience and joy of becoming world-class athletes. Our careers too, are a work in progress and are always under construction. That is not to say we should ignore the grand goal but it means we will be much happier if we take in all that life’s experiences bring us along the way.
As you watch our Olympic athletes this week reflect on how they have pursued their dreams and see what you might do to put some Olympic spark in your own career. And remember, “The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.” Don Williams Jr. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.