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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!

More by this author

Maggie Rowe

Copywriter | Life Coach

10 Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Michael Phelps

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Last Updated on July 16, 2019

7 Powerful Habits To Win In Office Politics

7 Powerful Habits To Win In Office Politics

Office politics – a taboo word for some people. It’s a pervasive thing at the workplace.

In its simplest form, workplace politics is simply about the differences between people at work; differences in opinions, conflicts of interests are often manifested as office politics. It all goes down to human communications and relationships.

There is no need to be afraid of office politics. Top performers are those who have mastered the art of winning in office politics. Below are 7 good habits to help you win at the workplace:

1. Be Aware You Have a Choice

The most common reactions to politics at work are either fight or flight. It’s normal human reaction for survival in the wild, back in the prehistoric days when we were still hunter-gatherers.

Sure, the office is a modern jungle, but it takes more than just instinctive reactions to win in office politics. Instinctive fight reactions will only cause more resistance to whatever you are trying to achieve; while instinctive flight reactions only label you as a pushover that people can easily take for granted. Neither options are appealing for healthy career growth.

Winning requires you to consciously choose your reactions to the situation. Recognize that no matter how bad the circumstances, you have a choice in choosing how you feel and react. So how do you choose? This bring us to the next point…

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2. Know What You Are Trying to Achieve

When conflicts happen, it’s very easy to be sucked into tunnel-vision and focus on immediate differences. That’s a self-defeating approach. Chances are, you’ll only invite more resistance by focusing on differences in people’s positions or opinions.

The way to mitigate this without looking like you’re fighting to emerge as a winner in this conflict is to focus on the business objectives. In the light of what’s best for the business, discuss the pros and cons of each option. Eventually, everyone wants the business to be successful; if the business don’t win, then nobody in the organization wins.

It’s much easier for one to eat the humble pie and back off when they realize the chosen approach is best for the business.

By learning to steer the discussion in this direction, you will learn to disengage from petty differences and position yourself as someone who is interested in getting things done. Your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is mature, strategic and can be entrusted with bigger responsibilities.

3. Focus on Your Circle of Influence

At work, there are often issues which we have very little control over. It’s not uncommon to find corporate policies, client demands or boss mandates which affects your personal interests.

Gossiping and complaining are common responses to these events that we cannot control. But think about it, other than that short term emotional outlet, what tangible results do gossiping really accomplish? In most instances, none.

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Instead of feeling victimized and angry about the situation, focus on the things that you can do to influence the situation — your circle of influence. This is a very empowering technique to overcome the feeling of helplessness. It removes the victimized feeling and also allows others to see you as someone who knows how to operate within given constraints.

You may not be able to change or decide on the eventual outcome but, you can walk away knowing that you have done the best within the given circumstances.

Constraints are all around in the workplace; with this approach, your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is understanding and positive.

4. Don’t Take Sides

In office politics, it is possible to find yourself stuck in between two power figures who are at odds with each other. You find yourself being thrown around while they try to outwit each other and defend their own position; all at the expense of you getting the job done. You can’t get them to agree on a common decision for a project, and neither of them want to take ownership of issues; they’re too afraid they’ll get stabbed in the back for any mishaps.

In cases like this, focus on the business objectives and don’t take side with either of them – even if you like one better than the other. Place them on a common communication platform and ensure open communications among all parties, so that no one can claim “I didn’t say that”.

By not taking sides, you’ll help to direct conflict resolution in an objective manner. You’ll also build trust with both parties. That’ll help to keep the engagements constructive and focus on business objectives.

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5. Don’t Get Personal

In office politics, you’ll get angry with people. It happens. There will be times when you feel the urge to give that person a piece of your mind and teach him a lesson. Don’t.

People tend to remember moments when they were humiliated or insulted. Even if you win this argument and get to feel really good about it for now, you’ll pay the price later when you need help from this person. What goes around comes around, especially at the workplace.

To win in the office, you’ll want to build a network of allies which you can tap into. The last thing you want during a crisis or an opportunity is to have someone screw you up because they harbor ill-intentions towards you – all because you’d enjoyed a brief moment of emotional outburst at their expense.

Another reason to hold back your temper is your career advancement. Increasingly, organizations are using 360 degree reviews to promote someone. Even if you are a star performer, your boss will have to fight a political uphill battle if other managers or peers see you as someone who is difficult to work with. The last thing you’ll want is to make it difficult for your boss to champion you for a promotion.

6. Seek to Understand, Before Being Understood

The reason people feel unjustified is because they felt misunderstood. Instinctively, we are more interested in getting the others to understand us than to understand them first. Top people managers and business leaders have learned to suppress this urge.

Surprisingly, seeking to understand is a very disarming technique. Once the other party feels that you understand where he/she is coming from, they will feel less defensive and be open to understand you in return. This sets the stage for open communications to arrive at a solution that both parties can accept.

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Trying to arrive at a solution without first having this understanding is very difficult – there’s little trust and too much second-guessing.

7. Think Win-Win

As mentioned upfront, political conflicts happen because of conflicting interests. Perhaps due to our schooling, we are taught that to win, someone else needs to lose. Conversely, we are afraid to let someone else win, because it implies losing for us.

In business and work, that doesn’t have to be the case.

Learn to think in terms of “how can we both win out of this situation?” This requires that you first understand the other party’s perspective and what’s in it for him.

Next, understand what’s in it for you. Strive to seek out a resolution that is acceptable and beneficial to both parties. Doing this will ensure that everyone truly commit to the agreed resolution and will not pay only lip-service to it.

People simply don’t like to lose. You may get away with win-lose tactics once or twice but very soon, you’ll find yourself without allies in the workplace.

Thinking win-win is an enduring strategy that builds allies and help you win in the long term.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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