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A Sporting Chance at Career Success

With Olympic fever in the air, it’s easy to feel inspired by and in awe of our elite athletes.

Not many of us have the determination, courage, strength or sheer talent to achieve what these exceptional people have done, just by getting to the Games.

On one of the many “pre-Olympics” TV programs recently, a number of distinguished sportspeople were interviewed about what it takes to succeed in sport at the elite level.

And there are lessons for all of us in what they said.


1. It’s not about the money

 Lots of sportspeople get paid very well. But the really successful ones don’t focus on that.

They focus on their sport. They are driven to succeed, and they love what they do. They have to – they spend hours every day doing it. When they are training or competing they are ‘in the zone’; they have a feeling of being in their element, as if this is where they belong. It’s their drive and their close identification with their sport that ultimately brings them the money.

The same is true for all of us. We might be tempted to focus on chasing the big bucks. But people with really successful careers are usually doing something they are driven to do.

And when they are doing it, they feel strong, successful and happy; they are in their element. The rewards come from that drive and that wonderful alignment between the person and their work.


2. Winning is more personal than competitive

You only have to watch a winning team’s celebrations to see how good it feels to beat the competition. But listening to successful sportspeople talking about winning is a revelation.

It’s pretty clear that a lot of that joy is tied to an understanding at a personal level that they’ve ‘made it’ – they’ve achieved the best they can achieve. Sometimes you can see the relief on the winner’s face. It’s clear their experience of winning is more about what they have done to get there, than it is about what they’ve done to the competition.

If we all put in the maximum effort to be the best we can be in our working lives, perhaps we could experience that same joy. And we might even beat the competition in the process!


 3. Every one of us has a talent

Elite sport is the ultimate niche career. Elite sportspeople have found that one sport, or even that one event in which they can excel, and they have worked hard to exploit their own talent. In the process of doing so, they have both done something for themselves and given something to their community.

They are all people who could have a more conventional career. Some of them would have been told when they were young that the chances of making a living out of sport were slim. But they chose to stick with their dreams and focus on their talent. Most of them were gambling on success when they started out. There were no guarantees; no clear career paths. They survived on hopes and self-belief.

All successful careers are like that. There is a leap of faith that’s required, and the faith you need is faith in yourself. That works best when you’ve made the effort to discover the talent within you, and find a way to exploit it. There are no guarantees. But when you find that talent, and find a way to make it work for you, the benefits are huge. And you will have found a way to make your own personal contribution to the community you live in.


Wanda Hayes
Career Spa

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