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.
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.
“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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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?”
“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.
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!