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10 Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Michael Phelps

10 Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Michael Phelps

The push, the grind, the effort, the consistency, the failures and the victories. We all have success and failures in life, but what matters is how we handle the adversity. Being an entrepreneur is very similar to being an athlete.

The qualities you must possess, the adversity you experience, the physical, emotional and mental pain, all feel the same whether you’re an entrepreneur or an athlete. As an entrepreneur and “retired” Div I collegiate athlete, watching Michael Phelps during the Olympics, I was inspired by his story. Love him or hate him, his story resonates to a human’s core. It surely did for me.

Since I’ve been thinking so much about his story and what makes it so inspiring, I couldn’t help but relate this hero’s journey to entrepreneurship. Life has ups and downs. It’s hard. We are all looking for hacks, tips and resources to ease our pain and find our way back home to share our story of success.

Life can knock you down, like it does for everyone, but how you handle the adversity is what matters. The process of getting back up and facing your biggest critics is how character is built.

Let’s look at the powerful business lessons I learned from a powerful force in the water, Michael Phelps.

1. Be True to Yourself

I’ve watched several interviews with Michael recently and he kept saying he wanted to do it for himself. He wanted to go out on top and do this his way. Can you relate?

With so much noise online and gurus claiming they have the answers to financial freedom, it’s hard to hear your own inner voice and calling. Maybe you’re not sure which action to take. You may feel paralyzed with fear. (I know I do sometimes.) Will the grammar police correct me publicly? Will they think I’m a fraud?

One thing I’ve learned is that I have to be true to myself. I have to get back in the water, as Michael did, even though it’s scary and won’t be easy. Staying true to myself and building a business, on my terms, is what it’s all about.

2. Hone Your Craft

Michael has perfected his craft. He studies film, he takes consistent, daily action. He pushes his body to the limit and he has been doing so for years. I think one of the hardest lessons in life is learning patience.

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And as an entrepreneur, do you have the patience to hone your craft without seeing any results? Are you willing to put in the time after multiple failed attempts? Are you willing to write that book without a publisher, create opt-ins that don’t convert and run Facebook ads that see zero ROI? The entrepreneur’s life is consistent with trial and error. For that I’m certain. We are constantly bombarded with million dollar stories and what seems to be overnight successes.

Michael didn’t win 28 medals “overnight.” It didn’t take him less than a year to hone his craft and reap the rewards. It took years of patience, skill and tenacity. It takes time to hone your craft, remain consistent and practice patience. Are you looking for the quick fix and the simple solution?

Think about it. Do you have the patience to hone your craft?

3. Surround Yourself With the Right People

Most people only have a handful of real friends. Look at Michael, he thought he had friends until someone snapped a photo of him taking “hits from the bong.” There are only a few people in your life that can show you empathy, love and compassion without judgment.

Surround yourself with those people. The wrong people in business will only bring you down and destroy what you’ve built. Find people that lift you up, make you a better person and won’t judge. Currently, if you have the wrong people in your life, you’re allowed to distance yourself and find new friends.

I give you full permission.

Michael didn’t get to where he is without the help and support from the right people. If you don’t currently have anyone in your life, start trusting yourself and connecting with like-minded people that think and perform at the top of their game. Your business and legacy depend on it.

4. Rule Yourself

Have you seen Michael’s Under Armor commercial where he’s working out, swimming countless laps and pushing himself to the brink of exhaustion in the dark? Without a doubt, you notice that determined, focused, passionate look on his face that says, “I’ll never quit.”

It’s the look of an athlete on a mission.
It’s the look of a single mom that works three jobs to make ends meet.
It’s the look of a professional that has their employees and family depending on them.
It’s the look of an entrepreneur up until 3 a.m. the night before a launch.

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“It’s what you do in the dark that puts you in the light. Rule Yourself. I will.”

It’s the ability to rule yourself.

It’s the ability to choose how you want to feel and take back your power.
It’s the ability to accomplish your goals.
It’s the ability to believe in yourself and to know your own value.

Rule yourself my friend, rule yourself!

5. Set Big, Audacious Goals

Katie Ledecky, swimmer and Olympic Gold Medalist, (not Michael this time) said in an interview with Ryan Seacrest that she set a goal after the 2012 Olympics and wrote it down. It was a big, scary goal that she didn’t think she could reach, but four years later, she crushed it.

What does that mean to the entrepreneur that wants to retire their spouse and impact the world? It means that without goals, you’re going nowhere. Goals don’t have to be solely financial either.

Set “impact goals” like, how has your business changed lives?
How can you measure impact?
How many of the right clients have you created as a result?

Get creative in how you measure the results. You could record how many positive emails or testimonials your get on a daily or weekly basis. That could be the driving force in your business. Set an impact goal and strive to increase it weekly, monthly, quarterly.

6. Finish

I hear and see a lot of entrepreneurs starting projects, but rarely ever finishing them. Of course, there have been plenty of times when I didn’t finish a project. But if I’m taking a lesson from Michael Phelps’s book, I’m going to finish what I start.

If I set a goal, I will rule myself until the end. I’m a little stubborn like that.

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There have been hundreds of times when I wanted to quit, but I didn’t.
I wanted to quit when I was in college, but I didn’t.
I wanted to quit when I first started my business, but I didn’t.
I wanted to quit being a mother at 4 a.m. with a screaming child, but I didn’t.

There have been plenty of projects and ideas that never have seen the light of day, but that doesn’t stop me.

Do you think Michael got to be the most decorated Olympian of all time because he quit when it got hard?

Finish.

Finish when it’s not sexy and you don’t feel like it.
Finish even if you don’t make millions from your effort.
Finish because you’ll learn something about yourself.
Finish and you’ll figure out the rest along the way.

7. Flexibility

You’re allowed to change your mind. There’s a fine line between “staying the course” and adjusting along the way. You have to stay the course, but if it’s clearly not working, things need to change.

I hear all too often that “this is how it has always been done” and it kills the creativity of businesses. Things must change to sustain.

It takes skill as an entrepreneur to know when to stay the course and when to be more flexible. Surely you’ll make the wrong decisions along the way, but keep an open mind with your vision. The journey is long. Remain flexible in how you get to your destination, but stay firm in your vision.

8. Implement

You must take action and implement what you learn. How many times have you gone to a summit or conference, learned hours of valuable information, met tons of amazing people only to return home to “business as usual?”

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“Insight without action is worthless.” – Marie Forleo

If you study film, read an article that inspires, educates, motivates, you must follow through and implement the lessons. Apply and do the work. It matters! Get out there and start doing. Take risks and make things happen. You got this!

What action can you take today to apply what you’ve learned?

9. The Pain Has A Purpose

If you’re human, you’ve experienced pain, but the pain has a purpose. It always does.

Often times you can’t see the purpose or reason for the pain, but the message will appear when you’re ready to hear it. Michael felt the pain after his second DUI. The world as he knew it was coming to an end. The pain was immense, but from that pain, he began to heal.

He went off to rehab and found himself swimming in a pool way too small for an Olympic athlete, but within the confining walls of a small pool, he found a man with a purpose. Your pain has a purpose too.

Can you see your pain as an opportunity for growth? Can you move through the pain to see a new perspective? Find your place to heal. Take a step back and get quiet so you can see more clearly. Allow your heart to open and for the forgiveness to enter.

10. Consistency

Consistency is huge and it’s something so many of us struggle with. There will always be someone better, stronger, faster, more skilled and more talented, but the “best” are the ones that remain consistent with their purpose and mission. You don’t have to be the best writer, speaker or leader to make an impact, but you do need to do it consistently.

What makes Michael different than any other swimmer in the world? There are many factors and variables, but one thing remains true. He’s consistent. He consistently shows up and does the work. He puts in the time and goes the extra mile.

Where can you be more consistent as an entrepreneur? Where can you consistently focus more of your time?

The most successful entrepreneurs aren’t working on a whim. They show up consistently and take action even when it’s scary and hard. Be that entrepreneur that makes a difference and changes the world. The world needs you!

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Maggie Rowe

Copywriter | Life Coach

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Last Updated on April 9, 2020

5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

It takes great leadership skills to build great teams.

The best leaders have distinctive leadership styles and are not afraid to make the difficult decisions. They course-correct when mistakes happen, manage the egos of team members and set performance standards that are constantly being met and improved upon.

With a population of more than 327 million, there are literally scores of leadership styles in the world today. In this article, I will talk about the most common types of leadership and how you can determine which works best for you.

5 Types of Leadership Styles

I will focus on 5 common styles that I’ve encountered in my career: democratic, autocratic, transformational, transactional and laissez-faire leadership.

The Democratic Style

The democratic style seeks collaboration and consensus. Team members are a part of decision-making processes and communication flows up, down and across the organizational chart.

The democratic style is collaborative. Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek is an example of a leader who appears to have a democratic leadership style.

    The Autocratic Style

    The autocratic style, on the other hand, centers the preferences, comfort and direction of the organization’s leader. In many instances, the leader makes decisions without soliciting agreement or input from their team.

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    The autocratic style is not appropriate in all situations at all times, but it can be especially useful in certain careers, such as military service, and in certain instances, such as times of crisis. Steve Jobs was said to have had an autocratic leadership style.

    While the democratic style seeks consensus, the autocratic style is less interested in consensus and more interested in adherence to orders. The latter advises what needs to be done and expects close adherence to orders.

      The Transformational Style

      Transformational leaders drive change. They are either brought into organizations to turn things around, restore profitability or improve the culture.

      Alternatively, transformational leaders may have a vision for what customers, stakeholders or constituents may need in the future and work to achieve those goals. They are change agents who are focused on the future.

      Examples of transformational leader are Oprah and Robert C. Smith, the billionaire hedge fund manager who has offered to pay off the student loan debt of the entire 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College.

        The Transactional Style

        Transactional leaders further the immediate agenda. They are concerned about accomplishing a task and doing what they’ve said they’d do. They are less interested in changing the status quo and more focused on ensuring that people do the specific task they have been hired to do.

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        The transactional leadership style is centered on short-term planning. This style can stifle creativity and keep employees stuck in their present roles.

        The Laissez-Faire Style

        The fifth common leadership style is laissez-faire, where team members are invited to help lead the organization.

        In companies with a laissez-faire leadership style, the management structure tends to be flat, meaning it lacks hierarchy. With laissez-faire leadership, team members might wonder who the final decision maker is or can complain about a lack of leadership, which can translate to lack of direction.

        Which Leadership Style do You Practice?

        You can learn a lot about your leadership style by observing your family of origin and your formative working experiences.

        Whether you realize it, from the time you were born up until the time you went to school, you were receiving information on how to lead yourself and others. From the way your parents and siblings interacted with one another, to unspoken and spoken communication norms, you were a sponge for learning what constitutes leadership.

        The same is true of our formative work experiences. When I started my communications career, I worked for a faith-based organization and then a labor union. The style of communication varied from one organization to the other. The leadership required to be successful in each organization was also miles apart. At Lutheran social services, we used language such as “supporting people in need.” At the labor union, we used language such as “supporting the leadership of workers” as they fought for what they needed.

        Many in the media were more than happy to accept my pitch calls when I worked for the faith-based organization, but the same was not true when I worked for a labor union. The quest for media attention that was fair and balanced became more difficult and my approach and style changed from being light-hearted to being more direct with the labor union.

        I didn’t realize the impact those experiences had on how I thought about my leadership until much later in my career.

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        In my early experience, it was not uncommon for team members to have direct, brash and tough conversations with one another as a matter of course. It was the norm, not the exception. I learned to challenge people, boldly state my desires and preferences, and give tough feedback, but I didn’t account for the actions of others fit for me, as a black woman. I didn’t account for gender biases and racial biases.

        What worked well for my white male bosses, did not work well for me as an African American woman. People experienced my directness as being rude and insensitive. While I needed to be more forceful in advancing the organization’s agenda when I worked for labor, that style did not bode well for faith-based social justice organizations who wanted to use the love of Christ to challenge injustice.

        Whereas I received feedback that I needed to develop more gravitas in the workplace when I worked for labor, when I worked for other organizations after the labor union, I was often told to dial it back. This taught me two important lessons about leadership:

        1. Context Matters

        Your leadership style must adjust to each workplace you are employed. The challenges and norms of an organization will shape your leadership style significantly.

        2. Not All Leadership Styles Are Appropriate for the Teams You’re Leading

        When I worked on political campaigns, we worked nonstop. We started at dawn and worked late into the evening. I couldn’t expect that level of round-the-clock work for people at the average nonprofit. Not only couldn’t I expect it, it was actually unhealthy. My habit of consistently waking up at 4 am to work was profoundly unhealthy for me and harmful for the teams I was leading.

        As life coach and spiritual healer Iyanla Vanzant has said,

        “We learn a lot from what is seen, sensed and shared.”

        The message I was sending to my team was ‘I will value you if you work the way that I work, and if you respond to my 4 am, 5 am and 6 am emails.’ I was essentially telling my employees that I expect you to follow my process and practice.

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        As I advanced in my career and began managing more people, I questioned everything I thought I knew about leadership. It was tough. What worked for me in one professional setting did not work in other settings. What worked at one phase of my life didn’t necessarily serve me at later stages.

        When I began managing millennials, I learned that while committed to the work, they had active interests and passions outside of the office. They were not willing to abandon their lives and happiness for the work, regardless of how fulfilling it might have been.

        The Way Forward

        To be an effective leader, you must know yourself incredibly well. You must be self-reflective and also receptive to feedback.

        As fellow Lifehack contributor Mike Bundrant wrote in the article 10 Essential Leadership Qualities That Make a Great Leader:

        “Those who lead must understand human nature, and they start by fully understanding themselves…They know their strengths, and are equally aware of their weaknesses and thus understand the need for team work and the sharing of responsibility.”

        The way to determine your leadership style is to get to know yourself and to be mindful of the feedback you receive from others. Think about the leadership lessons that were seen, sensed and shared in your family of origin. Then think about what feels right for you. Where do you gravitate and what do you tend to avoid in the context of leadership styles?

        If you are really stuck, think about using a personality assessment to shed light on your work patterns and preferences.

        Finally, the path for determining your leadership style is to think about not only what you need, or what your company values, but also what your team needs. They will give you cues on what works for them and you need to respond accordingly.

        Leadership requires flexibility and attentiveness. Contrary to unrealistic notions of leadership, being a leader is less about being served and more about being of service.

        More Leadership Tips

        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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