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1. First, believe you can
It has been said if you believe in yourself, others will too. Olympic gold medalists attribute their belief in self to a golden win. In fact, self-efficacy (i.e, the power of one’s belief in one’s own ability to complete tasks and reach goals) is believed to impact every human endeavor. Researchers have concluded that self-talk and performance go hand-in-hand.
“The type of self-talk generated by [a person] will, to a large extent, determine whether performance is improved or impaired.” (Source: The Online Journal of Sports Psychology) The same can be said of business – it’s quite hard to convince customers, investors, and employees that you can change the world unless you can first persuade yourself.
2. If you don’t succeed…try again
Most gold medalists don’t have a storybook start to their Olympic careers. In fact, according to Olympic competition data, “A small fraction of the world’s population ever competes at the Olympic Games; an even smaller fraction ever competes in multiple Games. [But of those that do] just over a hundred … have gone on to make at least a sixth Olympic appearance.”
The lesson here is simple: persist. Olympic journeys are akin to entrepreneurial goals – more often than not one is met with continuous defeat. But it is essential for winners to know that success always starts with failure because we rarely get it right the first time.
3. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments
Economist and Financial Times columnist Tim Harford believes that, “In a complex world, we must use an adaptive, experimental approach to success. Harford argues, ‘the more complex and elusive our problems are, the more effective trial and error becomes.’” (Source: 99U). Olympians that go for the gold will attest to the fact that a change of plans was instrumental to their success.
In business (and on the ice rink) we call this the illustrious pivot – a change of course that is almost always prevalent in the startup ecosystem. Silicon Valley entrepreneur Eric Reis coined the phrase which by definition suggests a “structured course correction designed to test a new fundamental hypothesis about the product, strategy, and engine of growth.”
As an entrepreneur your flexibility, agility, and speed (associated with pivots) may mean the difference between sustainable organic growth and failure. Most importantly, pivot the process and keep the end goal in full sight.
4. Locate your inspiration
Most Olympians don’t have to look far for inspiration. But in business, what inspires you to achieve your goals? How can you tap into your gift – especially when you feel uninspired? Ultimately, the best inspiration exists in three areas: yourself, others, and right outside of your comfort zone. I’ve found that most entrepreneurs are generally inquisitive.
And when you embrace your curiosity and couple it with observation, risk, and definitive action — inspiration knows no boundaries. But this requires that you dare to view the world differently. After all, as theoretical physicist Albert Einstein once asserted, “Imagination is the highest form of research.”
5. Embrace the process
Achieving a goal, more often than not, entails a less than desirable process. The process for achievement includes a commitment to manageable steps that don’t always go as planned. For Olympians it is multiple competitions and quotas to meet. For entrepreneurs it’s the daily, consistent activities within entrepreneurial framework (i.e., the fundamentals that contribute to larger goals).
According to entrepreneurship research, “An entrepreneur must find, evaluate, and develop an opportunity … [a] process [that] has four distinct phases: (1) identification and evaluation of the opportunity, (2) development of the business plan, (3) determination of the required resources, and (4) management of the resulting enterprise.” Sounds simple enough, right?!
Admittedly, we’ve all made missteps in the process of starting and running a successful business. But an error in process doesn’t mean you should stop pursuing your purpose. So, like any game – learn the fundamentals and embrace your personal process along the way.
6. Aim for flawless execution
Practice makes perfect. Olympians hailed for their flawless execution know this adage to be true. In business the same ideology applies: an idea is only as good as its execution. However, the implementation is often easier said than done. It’s an execution trap!
As Harvard Business Review (HBR) writer Roger Martin explains, “Jamie Dimon, now CEO of JPMorgan Chase, opined, ‘I’d rather have a first-rate execution and second-rate strategy any time than a brilliant idea and mediocre management.’” Translation: “a mediocre strategy well executed is better than a great strategy poorly executed…” So, while you’re entertaining the big idea, focus on winning tactics.
7. Visualize success
Before professional athletes competed in the Sochi 2014 games, “in characteristic fashion, [many undoubtedly] took a deep breath, cleared [their] mind and did a few visualization exercises.” (Source: ESPN)
Over the years psychological research has shown that detailed mental rehearsal can improve physical and mental performance. But does this really work? “Sports psychologists have understood for a long time that mentally rehearsing a strong performance is nearly as powerful as physical practice.” So, before your next sales pitch meeting or product launch, visualize your success.
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