Olympians Show Us How to Enjoy the Journey with Hard Work, Focus, and Passion

The opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London lacked the awe-inspiring human spirit that was captured in Beijing, but there were some moments of greatness. I especially enjoyed the tribute paid to Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the Internet, as he composed “This is for everyone” in a live tweet on stage. His story should remind us how one person can leave such a dramatically positive mark on our world. Almost 21 years ago he announced “World Wide Web” with those simple words that would change my life and billions of others forever: “This project is experimental and of course comes without any warranty whatsoever. However, it could start a revolution in information access.”

How right he was!

While I watched Friday’s ceremony, I found myself also applauding the words of Sebastian Coe, chair of the local organizing committee and vice president of the International Association of Athletics Federations. “The Olympics brings together the people of the world in harmony and friendship and peace to celebrate what is best about mankind… There is a truth to sport, a purity, a drama, an intensity, a spirit that makes it irresistible to take part in and irresistible to watch,” he said.

“In every Olympic sport, there is all that matters in life. Humans stretched to the limit of their abilities, inspired by what they can achieve, driven by their talent to work harder than they can believe possible. Living for the moment, but making an indelible mark upon history.”

As I wrote last week just prior to Olympic Games getting underway, I believe that these athletes share a unique relationship with my 10 secrets to entrepreneurial success. I would like to call attention to four of them and draw in the lessons that these athletes will learn and endure in their own special ways over the coming days.


Like every successful entrepreneur, the athletes we will hear about most this week are incredibly passionate about changing the course of history with their abilities. Take Japan, for instance, the birthplace of judo and a nation where passion runs deep. Japanese culture exemplifies that passion with honor, but the source of national pride that is judo has taken a beating at the most previous Olympics. I believe Japan can make a remarkable comeback if its judo players can execute with the same vigor and tenacity of a serial entrepreneur. In fact, Japan’s medal count is double other countries and we’re only a few days into the competition.

Japan’s team needs to counter the unorthodox techniques that have gotten the best of it in previous competitions with an equally disruptive game plan of its own. I predict the team will find redemption and a return to Olympic gold honor if it musters all the passion and strict adherence to execution that brought it to greatness in the first place. Only China’s passion in gymnastics and diving rivals Japan’s passionate judo dynasty.


Michael Phelps has dominated the sport of swimming for a decade, and he has always let his swimming speak for him. If you’re watching the competition at home tonight, skip ahead to the next section. Although his fourth-place finish in the 400 individual medley reminds us he’s a mortal, Phelps has become the most decorated Olympian ever with the gold medal in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay.

Like great entrepreneurs who learn from their missteps along the way, Phelps may not deliver Midas gold in London 2012 in every event like his 2008 performance in Beijing, but his focus is intact and he will deliver more medals this Olympics.

Once he’s done making laps in the pool and hangs up his goggles, I wouldn’t be surprised if he harnessed some of his entrepreneurial traits and started something on his own. Sure, he could make a ringing endorsement for a line of recovery products or a host of consumer products, but given his love of the sport, I think there’s something bigger on the horizon. In terms of team focus, the beach volleyball duo of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh look unstoppable in their quest for a three-peat of their own.

Hard work

I’m sure many of you already know this but it should be repeated, if only to give each and every Olympian the proper credit and recognition they deserve. Not one of the Olympic athletes got their ticket to London with pure luck, or what some in business refer to as an “overnight success.”

Maria Sharapova reminds me of this every time she steps onto the tennis court. When she made a comeback from shoulder surgery and regained the No. 1 tennis worldwide ranking, it was a direct result of the hard-work ethic of her native country, Russia. Maria is already an entrepreneur, with a net worth of around $90 million. Sure, her beauty rivals Aphrodite’s, but her business savvy is becoming more like Heidi Klum’s — look for her to extend beyond endorsements and her own line of apparel.

I don’t think it’s completely coincidental that entrepreneurship is such a big focus in Russia today. One of the best examples is Dmitry Grishin, the chairman, CEO and co-founder of Russia’s largest Internet company, Mail.ru, who has also launched a U.S.-based investment fund to support startups and the development of personal robots.

Enjoy the Journey

Although the Olympic Games will have bring many more twists and turns, I’m already counting down the days until the Paralympic Games get underway Aug. 29 in London. I’m especially looking forward to watching British rider Lee Pearson compete in his fourth Paralympic Games. Pearson has been out of competition for more than a year with an injury, and over that time Austria’s Pepo Puch has made his way to the top of the world-ranking list, but there is tremendous pressure on Pearson to overcome the odds. He has won three gold medals in the championship dressage, freestyle dressage and team dressage events at each of the last three Paralympic Games. Pearson is still favored to win and I believe it’s because of the remarkable strength and courage he has shown throughout his journey.

Please join me on twitter as I look closer at the commonalities that the world’s greatest athletes share and offer insights for how these skills can drive you to entrepreneurial greatness.