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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

10 Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Michael Phelps

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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