5 Lessons to Learn from Olympians

Everyone has Olympics fever.  People change their Facebook status to reflect the latest American to win a medal and congratulate that athlete. We feel a sense of pride when watching our athletes compete, and we know that there’s something bigger than the medals which our country is winning.   For every American win brings hope and, if just for a moment, a message is delivered that we might be down we we’re not out! Here are a few lessons that we should all take from these athletes.

1. Focus on your strengths

Olympians chose sports in which they are good. A skier doesn’t think; let’s try archery just for kicks.  No, Olympians know where their strengths lie, chooses a sport to focus on that capitalizes on these strengths, and works to make themselves one of the top competitors in that sport.  They also know how to brand themselves within that sport.  Shaun White snowboards not because he can’t ski, but because that’s his passion, strength, and also how he’s known.   He branded himself as a professional snowboarder.

When you consider people who are successful in the business world and evaluate how they got to be so successful, ask this one question:  Are they good at what they do?  The answer should be a resounding, YES.   That’s because Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump, and other successful people focused on where their strengths lie and capitalized on those.   No one would watch Oprah if she wasn’t a good talk show host and no one would have purchased Microsoft if it wasn’t a good product.   When you consider what niche or career you should focus on, evaluate your strengths and passions/interests first.  Then determine if you can make a living off of these strengths and passions/interests.  Finally, work towards branding yourself within that industry, through networking and getting experience.

2. Practice, Practice, Practice

Olympians didn’t make it to Vancouver, Canada on their sheer charisma but through perseverance, grit, hard work, and lots of practice.   It is their job to practice every day for the majority of the day, but they know that without this practice they would not be competitive.  This same theory applies towards the job search and branding yourself.   Consider the following as if the job search was the Olympic trials, but the actual work you do as an employee is your Olympic performance.

During your job search process, practice talking to employers, answering tough interviewing questions, and marketing your skills effectively. Future employers want to know that you can be calm under pressure, that you have knowledge within the industry, and the skills to back it up.   Once you have the job, your current employer still expects you to perform.   You need to continually sharpen your skills and seek out ways to further your knowledge within the industry to stay competitive and win the “gold medal.”  Or in more direct terms, to win the promotion or recognition within the industry.

3. Keep your eye on the prize

Every Olympian has a clear definition of the end goal in mind. There is no doubt about this goal.   It has been clearly defined, so they’ll know if they have succeeded in accomplishing it.  Every athlete then knows what it takes and how much work, blood, sweat, and tears are required to attain the elusive gold medal.   Athletes work continuously and steadily on improving their skills, while recognizing the small accomplishments along the way as one more step to obtaining the end goal.  Follow these athletes’ examples and set yourself goals, keep your eye on the prize, and work to achieve each goal. Read more about setting goals in these previous blog posts by Student Branding Blog writers.

4. Don’t be afraid to lose

As Kelly Cuene stated in her blog, Fail on an Olympic Level, it’s okay to lose every once in a while.   In every race there will be a winner and a loser, someone who wins the gold and everyone else who doesn’t.   The same applies to job searching, working for a promotion, and anything else for which you might have a goal.  Sometimes you’re the one who’s hired, but know that there are many others that were hoping for that job and worked just as hard during “practice.”  But, in the end, only one person is hired and only one person wins the race. Don’t let this fear of losing prevent you from entering the race! How much fun would races be if there was only one person entered?   Jump in, don’t be afraid to lose, and in the end you will at least come out of the race with a learning experience and better knowledge of how to win the next one.

5. Everyone needs a coach

Every athlete has a coach and relies on his/her coach to provide guidance, support, motivation, an objective perspective, and even criticism. Who is your coach in your life?  Is it your best friend who will remind you to “practice” and not be afraid to tell you things you may not want to hear, but so desperately need to hear?   Is it your mentor who listens carefully to your plans, goals, and problems and then offers suggestions and insight that seems so profound?  Do you have a coach?  If not, don’t despair.  The underlying strength of a coach rests in the resources that you already have.

Take advantage of these resources that you can find on any campus like, career services, advisors, student organizations, and faculty to make a combo-coach. Each office, person, or organization has its strengths and can help you.  No person is an island and although we may not all require the same amount of coaching, there’s no denying that some coaching is needed every once in a while.  Coaching helps you to keep your eye on the prize and reminds you to practice and focus on your strengths.



Karen is a Career Counselor and Internship Coordinator at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW). At IPFW she assists students in finding internships, coordinates and assists with campus-wide events, teaches a Career Planning course, and meets with students individually to assist them with all aspects of career development. She has a Bachelor of Science in Education with a major in Recreation and Tourism and a Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling from Bowling Green State University.

Related posts:

  1. Lessons From Bad Internship Experiences
  2. Life Lessons on the River
  3. Branding Lessons From Commerical Brands

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