There has been a lot of positive press about Michael Phelps. He is the greatest swimming champion of all time. No one can take any of that away from him, ever.
Over the years there has also been some very negative stories about Michael Phelps in the media and he earned it.
If we look at the story of this extraordinarily talented Olympic athlete, what lessons can we learn that we can apply as entrepreneurs and in our business?
Lesson #1: You must always win with grace. There have been times when Michael has won but he has at times shown a complete lack of grace as a winner. In one infamous incident he flipped off his opponent, splashing him and mock choking him. Meanwhile his opponent looked like he was completely devastated. I don’t care what someone else does, or what bad blood you have with them, there is no reason to lack grace. It is important to lose gracefully but also win gracefully. In business be gracious and polite to everyone. Character is important. People judge you by your actions and those people could be your next investor customer or partner- you never know. Show you have class.
Lesson #2: You can overcome adversity. Michael was an awkward kid with big ears and big feet who was teased in school. He suffered from severe ADD and struggled with learning and teachers who were mean. He had a terrible relationship with his father who abandoned him many times in his life. No matter what adversity you face in life or in business it can be overcome, and you can win. It can be done. Michael overcame it all. He rose from the ashes many times.
Lesson #3: You can’t blow it. Several times in his career Michael Phelps has disappointed his family and fans by having two DUI’s (2004 and 2014) Even though he had the world by the tail and millions in endorsement deals, he was arrested for DUI- twice in a decade. He could have lost millions in endorsement deals. He was suspending from swimming for a picture that circulated on the net of him smoking pot with a bong. Once you have built a successful business, you can’t be reckless. When you do, you risk losing all that your hard work and sweat has brought you.
Lesson #4: There are no rules. Michael was considered too old to ever come of retirement and to make it to the games- much less win more medals. He was not willing to accept the rules as other people saw them. He decided he could pull it off. As an entrepreneur you need to be fearless and sometimes ignore rules that people think are true. Maybe they can be broken.
Lesson #5: You need to know that you are responsible to and for others. Michael Phelps seemed to have forgotten an important lesson. He had companies that were paying him millions and expected him to act in a way that that would not tarnish their brand by association. He had a responsibility to his family, his fiancée and to his coach. You are a role model and people will look to you to set the example. When you are in business you are in business for yourself. However, you also have a responsibility for and to employees, shareholders, and your family. You can’t ever forget that. Never. Ever.
Lesson #6: Hard work pays off. People who have watched him practice say that Michael is very focused and dedicated in his training and moved to Arizona to train with his coach in an outdoor pool which he found more enjoyable than an indoor one. As an entrepreneur there really are no shortcuts. It take massive effort to be successful but the rewards can also be massive. Michael makes over thirty million a year.
I think by looking at any successful person we can learn valuable lessons to apply to our own life and business. What lesson can you apply?