Going for Gold: Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn from the Olympians

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life”  – Muhammad Ali

The World had gathered in Rio for the Summer Olympics to witness the marvelous feats that these Olympians were able to accomplish. Olympic Games are known to celebrate not only greatness in every sport but also the pursuit of it, as we all continue to read and hear about the most inspiring stories of the athletes’ lives. Take the story of Yusra Mardini, the Syrian refugee who swam alongside her sister across the cold waters of the Aegean Sea pushing their boat towards land for more than 3 hours. Or the story of Kieran Behan, an Irish gymnast who was once told as a child that he would never walk again, but with his determination was able to compete in the Olympics despite all his adversities. These sportsmen have and keep motivating millions around the world to achieve deeds of greatness.

As I was enjoying the Olympic Games along with probably a billion others, watching triumphs unfold, I couldn’t help but draw parallels with how launching a successful business has a lot in common with these games. These Olympians are truly inspiring with their dedication towards pursuing their goals and are great role models for many small business owners. And why should they not be, when some of the greatest athletes have the same qualities as those of the many successful entrepreneurs. So, as we witnessed some of the extraordinary achievements in the games from volleyball to archery, let’s take a brief look at what these Olympians have to impart to the several entrepreneurs of the world.

Dreaming Big

The bonding factor amongst the Olympic athletes is that all of them have dared to dream big. They did not just dream big, but they also worked hard and did whatever it took for them to make those dreams become reality.

It is the same quality that most great entrepreneurs have that every pursuing entrepreneur should exhibit. However, dreaming big may not mean that you start the next Google or be the owner of the famous restaurant in your city. Dreaming big is relative to where we are now and where we want to be. Just as an athlete sets a new target once they have achieved their personal record, an entrepreneur as well must stretch farther than what he thinks he can achieve. The difference between the one who dreams big and the one who accomplishes that dream is hard work. It surely is a herculean task, but definitely not impossible.

Be Flexible and Quick

You can see the accuracy in speed that gymnasts practice to land perfectly on the platform, and the flexibility that the divers maintain to make sure their bodies can make quick contortions in mid-air without losing points.

In the same manner, entrepreneurs must learn to grab the opportunities quickly to gain a competitive advantage by being first to market. Moreover, being rigid does not work well for the business as you must be flexible to tackle all the obstacles that come in the way. As an entrepreneur, it is important to be flexible and agile, to adapt to the changing circumstances and not fall back in the game. Because running a business is as unpredictable as the life of an athlete. You might work very hard towards something for very long only to see it evaporate before your eyes, just like many Olympic athletes, who fell short by margins of micro-seconds to lose their winning spot.

Don’t underestimate your opponents

Before every Olympian takes to the field, they analyze the strengths and weaknesses of their opponent, which is very crucial for every contender to know for devising their plan of attack. You can always see the difference between the game plans of the players when they have played against their opponents before, as opposed to when they have not. The times when athletes have underestimated the opponents, it has always been tougher for them to beat their opponents in the game.

Without knowing the competition well or being ill-informed can cost an entrepreneur dearly. Knowing exactly what is happening in your industry, and the action that your competitors are taking is very important for your business. You need to stay on the edge to study your opponents move or else it might even cost you your business in worst cases.


One of the greatest swimmers in the world, Michael Phelps is known to have trained 5-7 hours daily for many years. The same holds true for several other athletes, who many times leave their homes and families to train full time for the Olympics. As it was rightly said in one of the Olympic promos a few years ago, there are no shortcuts and you have to put in time and effort to strive for that gold medal.

While it is true for entrepreneurs as well, there might be some shortcuts that sure will be tempting for anyone to gain success quickly. But it is also true that these shortcuts would only have benefits that are short-lived. Those entrepreneurs who are willing to dedicate as much as it takes in pursuit of their goals, will one day become the owners of some of the great companies. Success comes only to those who work hard and smart and strive to be the best.

Find a great Mentor

While every Olympian is known to have worked hard, they have always attributed their success to their coach. Even if an athlete is naturally talented, a great coach helps nurture him or her to reach their full potential. Bob Bowman, the coach of one of the greatest swimmers Michael Phelps, Liang Chow the coach for Olympic champion Gabrielle Douglas, and our very own Pullela Gopichand, the coach for Silver medallist P.V. Sindhu, are known for their leadership who have converted raw talent into great success. It is very important to have strong leaders to accomplish that victory in the Olympics, just as it is important in business to have a great mentor.

Unlike the athletics field where great coaches are drawn towards the talented athletes, entrepreneurs must look out for mentors who can guide them while they are building their businesses. Seeking mentors who have expertise, credibility and those who have shown results in the past can help entrepreneurs navigate the path of building a successful company. Business coaches must be able to inspire, motivate and teach entrepreneurs on how to be at the top spot. As mentoring is an investment of time and effort, it is important to ensure that the relationship is mutually beneficial and is also the right fit for the entrepreneur as well as for the mentor.

It is always an amazing experience to watch the Olympic games, and see people perform at the highest levels as they get awarded for hard work and sacrifices that they have made. It is the same with business owners who work hard and dedicate their lives to becoming successful. So, go for gold in whatever you are working on, and make yourself as well as everyone else proud of your accomplishments.

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Business Analyst by profession but truly a travel enthusiast, animal lover, dancer, and an avid reader that has brought me to writing. A reliable team player living in the present with utmost positive attitude who cannot live without friends and family. And I am one of the best persons you will ever meet unless you mess with me :)