Every four years, countries from all parts of the globe gather together for the time-honored tradition of pitting their national champions against one another in order for the world champions to emerge victorious. From Aug. 5 through Aug. 21, nearly 10,500 athletes from 207 countries will compete in 28 different sports for the chance to win 306 sets of medals in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
Harking back to its origins in eighth-century Greece, the modern-era Olympics were revived in 1896. Held at the iconic Panathenaic stadium in Athens, Greece, the first worldwide Olympic Games boasted 241 athletes from 14 nations, including the United States. This year’s Olympiad shows that these peaceful games have come a long way since their relatively humble beginnings. But, the traditions of hard work, goal-setting, and passion are just as true then as they are today. For most of us, the 2016 Olympics will be a spectator sport, but that doesn’t mean we can’t extract a few tips from our Olympians to help us become champions over our competition.
Stand out in the crowd.
Sometimes the hardest thing to do in business is to separate your organization from the competition. Whether you’re dealing with a staunch competitor who seems to always be on your heels or you’re trying to differentiate your organization on how the public perceives you, stepping out to be noticed is crucial. However, standing out in the crowd takes not only vision and passion, but also perseverance through various trials.
One person who embraced this mindset was famed American Olympian Jesse Owens. During the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Nazi Germany was bent on projecting their discriminatory views by showing their dominance over other athletes from different ethnic backgrounds. But in a hostile environment, Owens silenced their prejudice narrative by dominating the games and taking home four gold medals in track and field—a record at the time. Owens’ ability to focus on his overall goal and persevere during trials and tribulation was the push needed to help separate him from his competition.
When trying to differentiate your company, first decide what makes your team different—what do you do better than anyone else and are most equipped in to dominate your market? Focus on these things. Forget about your competition; that struggle will work itself out as long as you stand out in the crowd.
Don’t rest on your laurels.
In antiquity, Olympic champions where given laurel-leaf, wreath-like headdresses symbolizing their victorious feats. In today’s society, we pay homage to this ancient tradition when we refer to someone as a “laureate.” Achieving this status is a triumphant honor, but the Olympic greats never rested on their laurels.
One of the best examples embodying this trait is Michael Phelps. In his second Olympic appearance in the 2004 games, the American swimmer won his first Olympic gold medal in the 400-meter medley, and went on to win five more gold medals and two bronzes. Instead of being satisfied with that feat, he then won gold in each of his eight events in the 2008 Beijing games, and followed that with four golds and two silvers in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Phelps’ unyielding resolve has culminated into now holding the record for most Olympic medals won, achieving 18 gold, as well as two silver and bronze medals each. And by competing in four events in this year’s Olympic Games, he may add to that number.
To continue to dominate in your market or industry, you must constantly improve, never resting on your laurels. Whether it’s a competitor or your own personal goals, there is always someone or something close behind ready to snatch victory from you at the last moment. The moment you become satisfied with your success is the moment you lose your competitive advantage. Always look toward the future.
In today’s marketplace, business leaders are coming up with new ideas, services, and products at an exponential rate, bent on providing consumers with tangible and nontangible items that no one has made available before. These innovators understand that one of the most effective ways to curb the competition is to do things no one else is doing.
At the first Olympic Games in Olympia, Greece, in 776 BC, Coroebus of Elis won The Stadion race, running 192 meters to become the first Olympic champion in history, solidifying himself as the first in a long, tradition-rich line of elite athletes. Not much is known about Coroebus of Elis, but his legacy has lived on through being the first to achieve Olympian status. Another innovative Olympian was American golfer Margaret Abbott. The 1900 Paris Olympic Games were the first to include women, whereas Abbott was one of only 22 female athletes across all sports. She went on to shoot a 47 in nine holes achieving first place. Although she wasn’t clear at the time if the competition was a part of the Paris games, the Olympic Committee posthumously awarded her a gold medal, making Abbott the first U.S. female Olympic champion.
As a leader, to go where no one has been, you must first pave the way by doing what no one else has done. Whether by creating a product or service currently unavailable or setting higher ethical standards within your company, innovation is at the heart of successful leadership. Regardless of your industry, proactively seek new opportunities instead of reactively trying to keep up with the rest of the field.
Curb the Competition.
The Summer Olympic Games create an infectious buzz across the entire world every four years. The passion, drive, resilience, and perseverance seen in each Olympian during these fierce competitions inspire generation after generation. These athletes have shown us that in order to be successful, they had to stand out in the crowd, not rest on their laurels, and be innovative. These truths should translate into our own professions. By focusing on these Olympians’ timeless advice, you too can curb the competition and go for the gold.
What have you done to differentiate your business? How do the Olympic Games inspire you? Let us know in the comments section below!