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Developing an Olympian attitude

The Olympics and Olympians have provided great inspiration over the years. The Olympic games comes and goes every few years but what lessons can we learn from the Olympians who inspired us? What lessons can we apply to achieve an Olympic level of success in our individual lives? What does it even mean to be an Olympian?

We can discuss endlessly about which country, company or brand is the best in the world.  But there is no question about the fact that the fastest man on the planet today is the latest Olympic gold medallist: Usain Bolt. Period.  Winning the Olympic gold medal proves that you are the best in your field. There is no ambiguity involved.

Even getting to the Olympics is a tremendous achievement and indicates you are among the best of the best.  You don’t land up in the Olympics by chance. Athletes from around the world compete in multiple rounds to earn a place in the Olympics.

As MBA tutors to some of the best MBA programs in the world, we have identified four important attitudes that students can emulate to achieve Olympic level success in their respective fields.

Discipline

Discipline is the ability to plan for success and systematically implement the plan in a timely, orderly and consistent manner.  This includes doing everything required to achieve your goals including boring work and/or work that you don’t like. In an interview with David Letterman, Usain Bolt talks about training 6 days a week. He talks about doing squats which he does not like but still does so that he can get the strength required to be a runner.  According to Merriam-Webster discipline is “training that corrects, moulds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character”. To achieve Olympic level success, we have to mould our mind and body into forms required for success in our chosen field.

Practice

Watching the Olympics and the glamor achieved by the star athletes can mislead us into thinking that success may be easy. Success in any field comes with hours, months, years and sometimes decades of practice. Mohammed Ali once said “The fight is not won in the ring, but out here in the early morning hours when I’m running these long miles, conditioning, getting in shape. The boxing match is won way before I get into the ring.”  Malcolm Gladwell in his book ‘Outliers’ explains that to achieve mastery in any field requires about 10,000 hours of practice. This means that if you practise something for 3 hours a day, it will take you about 9 years to truly master it!

Commitment to your goal

To gain Olympic level success in whatever field you choose, you need to be totally committed to your goals.  No excuses are accepted.  If you have to wake up at 5 am every day to practice, you have to wake up whether it is sunny or raining even if you don’t feel like waking up.  When you are interested in something, you will only do it when it is convenient. However, commitment means that you have to do whatever is required to achieve your goals whether it is convenient or not.

Sacrifice

Becoming the best in the world in your field of endeavour requires you to give up many other things.  For example, Usain Bolt at first wanted to be a cricketer in Jamaica. Once he set his mind on athletics he had to give up this desire.  It is hard to be a world-class athlete and a professional boxer or cricketer because the training, skills and mental attitude required are different for different sports or professions.

 

As teachers, parents and friends, we come across students with a wide variety of attitudes. In addition to teaching them the subjects required, what is equally or more important is to help students develop the right attitude to life. The Olympic attitude is something that will serve them well.

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