Lessons from the Olympics

The Olympics are a time when nations come together to celebrate athleticism and sportsmanship. It is a time when people from all corners of the earth can come together and root for their favorite athletes. The Olympics are a source of inspiration for people all over the world, and they offer a glimpse into what is possible if you dedicate yourself to your passions.

I'm a huge Olympics fan. As a father, I look forward to watching the games with my son because growing up, it was a tradition for me to watch every Olympic competition possible with my father. I would wait anxiously for the Olympics to roll in every 4 years (before they were staggered in '94) so we could have that quality time together and I could learn all the things my father shared with me during the Olympics.

I loved the level of play and competition, but most of all, I loved the life lessons my father would point out to me. He would talk about commitment and hard work and the obstacles and adversity that athletes and nations would have to overcome to participate in the games. My favorite lessons were about the history and politics of nations and watching those dynamics play out on the field.

This year, the lessons I'm learning from the Olympics are especially poignant as my father has been fighting his own Olympic-level battle with cancer for the past 3 years…

With my father and brother on Father's Day

Here are some lessons from this year's Olympics:

  1. Standing for your mental health is more important than standing on the podium. Simone Biles stood for her own mental health and opened conversations about mental wellness that had been previously closed. She did this even though her naysayers and critics took actions to potentially make her situation worse. Often, as entrepreneurs, we ignore our mental health in favor of working in our businesses and ‘getting things handled.' This culture of ‘pushing through' is backwards and leads to burnout. We need to take inspiration from Biles and stand for our own mental wellness.
  2. There's room at the top for everyone. Qatar's Mutaz Essa Barshim And Italy's Gianmarco Tamberi showed us how much better it is to share a win with someone than be alone at the top of the podium when they opted to share the gold medal for high jump. It's ok to embrace and share the spotlight and rewards with your competition. Find opportunities to collaborate with your competitors.
  3. Mastery comes in all shapes and sizes. Japan's Momiji Nishiya, 13 and and China's Quan Hongchan, 14 showed us what mastery looks like in skateboarding and diving, respectively, both taking gold. In business, many communities and groups are overlooked based on their history of achievement. There's a unique opportunity right now to highlight qualified voices that have been historically unseen or marginalized.
  4. Share your wins with those who helped you win. Caeleb Dressel's 5 gold medals in swimming (only been done by 4 men before him) is the result of a lifetime of hard work and doing whatever it takes, no matter the circumstance, to fulfill on his dream. As I watched him give away the first of these medals to one of his teammates who helped him get there, I was reminded to practice gratitude and generosity and how important this lesson is in business. Consider sharing your wins by donating to a charity or by rewarding those who helped you achieve.
  5. Extraordinary feats are worth celebrating. Watching USA's Lydia Jacoby's friends, family and high school classmates go insane after the 17-year old won gold (there's one non-Olympic sized pool in her hometown in Alaska) reminded me how important celebrating is. It's uplifting and reinforcing for the mindset to celebrate – big wins and small wins too. Consider hosting a meetup or event to celebrate small business wins. Creating an environment of celebration helps foster inclusion, appreciation and collaboration for what's to come.
  6. There are things more important than winning the gold. USA's Isaiah Jewett and Botswana's Nijel Amos reminded me of our collective humanity after getting tangled up in their race, embracing, and walking to the finish line together – in last. Everything we do – all of our winning can sometimes overshadow how important it is just to be human sometimes. That moment transcended every gold medal for me and is etched into my memory permanently. Often, as entrepreneurs, we measure the money and forget to measure the difference we make for people – let's embrace that a little more and focus on making impact in addition to income.

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  1. Very well put Iman.

    I normally watch the Olympics but this time around didn’t make the time to.

    Having said that, I did catch wind of Simone Biles making the choice to back out of certain elements of the competition for her own mental health.

    It’s far more likely that we as humans push through at all costs…but when what it costs is your well-being…that will never be a long-term solution.

    Our health and well-being must prevail.

    Thank you for sharing this.

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