6 Ways to Bring Olympian Grit to Your Career Climb

July 31, 2012  |  

The Olympics is one of the view institutions that celebrate feminine toughness as much as its masculine counterpart. The London Games are be no exception with women outnumbering men on the U.S. roster for the first time in history, and the debut of women’s boxing where the United States is represented in each of the three weight categories. Hopefully, the grit and toughness displayed by female Olympians will influence perceptions of women competing in areas outside athletics.

Making it to the top of any field is a daunting task that requires dedication, resiliency, and more than a little toughness. Here are six lessons from world-class athletes to help you overcome adversity on your climb up the corporate ladder.

1. Be Resilient.

“‘Falling in life is inevitable—staying down is optional.'”                                                                                                        -Carrie Johnson, two-time Olympic kayaker

It is easy to get caught up in the glory of the Olympic Games and forget all of the missteps and faulty starts that lead up to the defining moment of an athlete’s career. When you experience your own setbacks, never let staying down be an option. 

2. Tough it out.

“‘One word: ‘Fight.’ Anyone can do it when it feels good. When you’re hurting, that’s when it makes a difference, so you have to keep fighting.”
-Erin Cafaro, 2008 rowing Olympic gold medalist in women’s eight

The difference between being an amateur and an Olympian may just boil down to how much pain a person is willing to endure. Pain and discomfort weed out the candidates who just don’t want it bad enough. Your career trajectory won’t always be easy, but if you’re willing to put in the work even when it doesn’t feel good, you’re already beating out most of your competition.

3. Push yourself.

“‘If you think you’re done, you always have at least 40 percent more.”‘
-Lauren Crandall, captain of the 2012 U.S. Olympic field hockey team

“I ask myself, ‘Can you go any harder? Are you hurting enough? Are you going hard enough?’ I keep asking myself: ‘Can you go any harder?'”
-Kristin Armstrong, 2008 road cycling Olympic gold medalist in women’s time trial

What you think you can do and what you are truly capable of are vastly different from one another. We rarely tap into our  full potential. Olympians regularly test their limits and push their boundaries. Don’t let yourself get comfortable, even when you’re satisfied with your work. You can always go a little harder.

4. Stay positive.

“‘Everything is going to work out—there’s no other option.'”
-Kari Miller, 2008 Paralympic sitting volleyball silver medalist

The mind is a powerful tool and our way of thinking has a profound impact on our performance. If you’re feeding yourself thoughts of failure, you’re creating the perfect environment for self-fulfilling prophecy. Continually remind yourself that there is no other option than for you to succeed.

5. Have fun.

“‘If you’re not having fun, then what the hell are you doing?’ It reminds me to find the reason why I’m doing it and why I’m out there, which makes things more manageable when I’m stressed and fatigued.”
-Allison Jones, six-time Paralympian

When was the last time you heard an Olympian saying that they hated their sport? Part of the passion that comes with competing at such a high level is the sheer joy the athletes gain from the experience. If you are going to dedicate your life to a career or venture, make sure it is something that you love to do.

6. Compete.

“‘My competition isn’t resting!'”
-Kim Rhode, five-time Olympic shooter

There are benefits to focusing on your own lane, especially in the heat of competition. But, when you’re training for your big moment, don’t forget that there are other people vying for the same dream you are. If you’re not actively working at getting better at what you do, you are probably getting worse, and someone else is certainly surpassing you.

Cortney Cleveland is a freelance writer and content strategist in New York City. You can follow her on Twitter@CleveInTheCity and visit her personal column The Red Read.


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