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6 Things the Winter Olympics Can Teach You About Entrepreneurship

By Logan Clements

· Olympics,Entrepreneurship

For two weeks, the Winter Olympics take the world by storm. Fans around the world rediscover their love of curling, figure skating, snowboard half pipe, and more. This year, I got to take it all in in-person, attending the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea

In the standing room section of the women’s snowboard cross, I was just feet from the athletes embracing their coaches and teammates after their run. For USA, there was heartbreak as two of the American athletes didn’t make the final run, and Lindsey Jacobellis finished just off the medal stand in 4th place.

In contrast, Julia Pereira de Souda Mabileau of France had one of the best days of her lives. Ranked 15th going into the semifinal rounds, she had an amazing run, taking home a silver medal. Her face was a mix of shock and joy as she soaked up her moment on the podium.

As I watched women’s snowboard cross and other Winter events, I kept coming back to the two principles every athlete embodied that I could apply to my business.

  1. Trust the process, even though no one is watching.
  2. But when you’re under pressure, focus on your overall goal.

No one makes the Olympics by just showing up to the Trials or even the Games with little to no preparation. Every athlete has put in hundreds and thousands of hours on the slope, ice, or track as well as time in the weight room, meeting with nutritionists and sports psychologists, not to mention the money they personally invested in their Olympic dream.

Starting your own company can be like competing in your own personal Olympics. You might not be up against other countries or top athletes, but you have a goal and only you can work toward achieving that. Here are a few tips you can apply from the Olympic lifestyle to your company.

  1. Identify your main goal — This should be your big lofty year-long or six month goal. It could be hiring your first employee, earning over $100,000, or getting your company acquired. It doesn’t matter what it is, but make sure you just focus on one. When I first started my company, I was focused on winning retainer clients to help me cover my monthly expenses so I’d have the freedom to explore my interest in digital marketing and event management.
  2. Break it down into small goals — You can’t achieve the big goal immediately without figuring out smaller tasks you need to complete to get there. You could bring on an advisor to learn more about how to talk about getting investors or start by creating a list of tasks you need help with to begin creating a role for your first employee.
  3. Get a good coach — Coaches can come in all shapes and sizes and even forms. You’ll hear many Olympians thanking their coaches for providing them with feedback, encouragement, and knowledge that helped them achieve their dreams. Some people rely on a mentor or older advisor for advice. Others read the New York Times and top business blogs to learn more about running their business. I’ve worked to build a group of fellow business owners and friends who I can bounce ideas off of or go to for inspiration.
  4. Don’t forget recovery time — Even Michael Phelps and Shaun White take time off and you shouldn’t be an exception. I’ve read countless articles about entrepreneurs who don’t sleep, haven’t taken a vacation in years and barely leave their office. They’re touted as exemplary business owners driven by their passion for what they do. That might work for a few but that should’t be the rule of what makes a great entrepreneur. Plan a vacation, even for a weekend or a night out to a new restaurant. I’ve had my best business brainstorms when I’ve traveled outside of Shanghai. I have some of my best ideas sitting in an airplane or while I’m exploring a new city. Your brain needs breaks and you can boost your creativity by exploring a new environment.
  5. Trust the process — Use your big goal and small goals as your guiding light, no matter if you’re still working to get the company off the ground or preparing for your big meeting with investors. If you’ve put the time in with the first five steps, even if you’ve had to backtrack and redo them once or twice (or even pivot to a new idea), you will know that you are ready for this moment. This is the hardest step for me as I tend to overthink some of the small things, which has stopped me from landing the next big client or account. This year, I’ve made a goal to reduce the smaller tasks and focus on working on larger projects that align with my passion: improving the athlete experience for sports teams who travel to China.
  6. Revisit and revise your goals (big and small) — Nothing really stays the same from year to year or even month to month, even for Olympic athletes. At the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games, we’ve seen new Olympic sports like the Big Air Snowboard competition. Your business goals will also rarely stay the same. I’ve been working to take time every 3–4 months to re-evaluate what I’m working on, what I love doing and what I don’t like to spend my time doing. I’m still in the process of revising my big goals as 18 months in to running my own company, I know that my personal goals have changed and clients have challenged me to think differently.

Working at your own company, especially if you’re a company of one, can be a very lonely process which at times can feel like the wrong decision. Even if you’re not getting featured in Forbes magazine or writing the next viral blog post on Medium, you can still make sure that each part of your business that you pour yourself into will help grow your business and get one step closer to winning gold in your professional Olympic Games.

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