How the Olympics Relates to Business

Posted by Trevor on 10 August 2012 | 2 Comments

Watching the Olympics live is a thrill. I am in the U.S., but I happen to have the same system the military uses to watch TV from abroad in real time. Ask any Englishman, and you’ll hear how nervous we all were about the opening ceremony, because Beijing’s was so brilliant. My thought was that we shouldn’t even attempt to do an opening ceremony, putting up a sign pointing to the stadiums instead: “Olympics this way.” My family and I watched the opening ceremony from behind cushions, terrified. The ceremony turned out to be quirky and surreal, and I quite enjoyed it.

While I’m not a big fan of the team events, I love sports, so for me the Olympics are a festival. The individual sports resonate with who I am and with some of the principals I teach. They place the athlete against everything. A sprinter isn’t just sprinting against her other six competitors; she’s sprinting against the pressure of her family, coach, crowd and country. If she makes a mistake, she alone has to worry about it, because there are no teammates to cover for her.

Make a mistake in individual sports and it’s over. One error in cycling or rowing costs you two years of training. The mentality you need to withstand this pressure requires strength and determination. Watching these athletes perform is pure enjoyment, because you’re seeing these traits in action.

Consider how this relates to life and business. As an entrepreneur, it’s you against the world. There’s no one to rely on or blame, because typically when you start a company, you don’t have a single employee. You can’t say the kinds of things you hear every day in the corporate world: “Oh, it wasn’t my fault, he screwed up.” Nor can you say: “Oh, my boss is an idiot. He didn’t know what he was doing.”

As an entrepreneur, you are like an individual athlete. You need an incredibly strong mentality plus the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. For example, the tennis match between Andy Murray and Marcos Baghdatis happened to be on a windy day. With a crowd of 15,000 people watching at Wimbledon Stadium and many millions more watching on TV, there was tremendous pressure on Murray. Baghdatis handled the first set better and broke Murray three times, which is unusual. Murray managed, however, to find a way to adapt to the circumstances, and then turn them around.

Imagine you’re losing a match. You’re fighting terrible weather conditions and an edgy, nervous crowd. This is exactly what it’s like in business. You can’t let changes throw you off your stride. Things will go wrong. Money won’t come in when it’s supposed to, and things won’t produce when they’re supposed to. You have to find a way of dealing with it. Think about what it takes inside to stand up to the high pressure and changing conditions ahead. When in doubt, remember these athletes in their moments of triumph, and then dig deeper.


  1. JillWeldon says:

    Slightly off topic, but…. Just wondering if you use Tunnelbear to view BBC live? Great app!

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