Lessons from the Olympics for our Business

Many of you probably don’t know – but I’m a huge Olympics fan. Growing up, it was a tradition for me to watch every Olympic competition possible with my father and I would wait anxiously for the Olympics to roll in every 4 years (before they were staggered in ’94).

What I loved most about the Olympics other than the level of play and competition, were all the life lessons my father would point out to me. He’d talk about the politics of nations, commitment, hard work and athletes and nations overcoming major obstacles and adversity just to get there. This year, this takes on special meaning for me as my father has been fighting his own Olympic-level battle with cancer for the past 3 years, and there’s so much I’m learning that I want to share with all of you.

With my father and brother on Father’s Day

Here are some of my takeaways from this year’s Olympics:

  1. Nothing is more important than your mental health. even and especially when your naysayers and critics take actions to potentially worsen the state of it. Simone Biles stood for her own mental health and opened conversations about it previously closed. Often, us entrepreneurs ignore our mental health in favor of working in our businesses and ‘getting things handled.’ This is backwards.
  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 your competition.
  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, don’t miss out on potential clients and partners based on prejudging people.
  4. Do whatever it takes. 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 that dream. As I watched it unfold, so did my list of where I haven’t been doing whatever it takes. Then he gave away the first of these medals to one of his teammates who helped him get there. Practicing gratitude and generosity are so important in business.
  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.
  6. There are things more important than winning and being the best. 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. Let’s bring that forth in our businesses.

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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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