What the Olympics Can Teach Us About Our Career

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Posted February 17, 2014 by Jill Vived in On the Ladder

Kristi Yamaguchi SI Cover

I love the Olympics. Watching champions, who after years of practice, attain that final dream of Olympic gold, or even just find victory in making it to the Olympics, are so inspiring. It makes me want to get out there and win the gold.

But alas, I am no athlete. But that doesn’t mean I can’t achieve greatness in the type of work I do. Whether you sit at a desk all day, or skate the Olympic ice, all of us have a champion inside, just waiting to mount the podium of success.

What are you doing to cultivate your own inner athlete?

Here are three common traits held by Olympic athletes competing for the gold:

1) Practice until it hurts.

Olympic athletes don’t achieve greatness by playing it safe. They’ve made endless falls, suffered endless injuries, and even lost endless competitions. Thankfully, most careers don’t require broken arms and strained hamstrings, but they will include their own share of failures and broken egos. Don’t fear these failures; instead, learn from them, get back in the game, and know that these failures are merely another necessary learning opportunity in your path to success.

Many of the most successful business people have failed at some point in their careers and yet they still ultimately achieved success. Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first job, Walt Disney’s first animation company went bankrupt, and J.K. Rowlings was on welfare before the wildly popular success of the Harry Potter series. Use your failures as a motivation to get better and you too will ultimately achieve podium standing greatness.

2) Find a great coach.

Great athletes do not achieve greatness on their own; they work hard, and they find great coaches to help them become better. In business, mentorship is key.  A good mentor, or even many good mentors, will help you to recognize your strengths, but even more importantly, to recognize your weaknesses and work with you on overcoming them.

A good mentor will also help you to navigate the often tricky path to success, figuring out whether lateral or vertical career moves are a better option, and helping you to see things that your own limited perceptions may be skewing.

3) Never give up.

Every champion has felt discouraged at some point in his or her quest for Olympic gold. Don’t let these moments of discouragement stop you from continuing to work for your dream. Continue to work hard, and seek out your coach or mentor to help you get through the hard times.

It takes years to achieve greatness. Success doesn’t happen overnight, but only after years of diligence, hard work, and yes, failures. Just as in the Olympics, no matter how many times you get it right in practice, you might occasionally fall flat on your face. Or you may just win gold.

But in the end, if you do your best and continue to work hard, success will ultimately follow.

Now get out there and go for the gold, Career Girls!


About the Author

Jill Vived

Jill Vived is a freelance writer and marketing communications professional currently working as the Director of Marketing for Vivalta, Inc., a recruiting firm specializing in placing finance and accounting professionals in Denver and San Francisco she co-owns with her husband. Working in the search industry has given Jill a distinct perspective on careers and job search that she is excited to share with Career Girls everywhere. When she is not reading up on everything marketing, branding, and career related, Jill spends her time chasing around her two young children, dreaming up DIY crafts, and enjoying the great outdoors.

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