As I write, Britain’s team of athletes sit second in the Olympics league table, and their achievements speak for themselves. Simply competing in the Olympics marks them out as the sporting elite and to win is the pinnacle of many years of hard work, physical and mental, so it’s not surprising that stepping onto the podium to finally clutch that hard earned medal is an emotional moment.
When we were opening our office in New York, one of the candidates in the running to head up our US business was an Olympic gold medal winner. He had great experience, but the fact that he’d won in an elite sporting competition – really ‘the’ elite sporting competition gave him real cachet. You see, it’s not so much the physical achievement as the mental toughness that’s so attractive. In order to compete and win at that level, people need to have an intense focus and incredible drive – you have to really believe you can do it. Look at Mo Farah – he fell over in his 10,000 metres race, but he got up, got going and won the race – and, as he said to reporters afterwards “I was asking myself: Is the race done? Is the race done? I thought: ‘No, I’ve worked too hard for this’.”
In business, there are always times when you fall over, always times when you don’t win the pitch you really wanted to win, when revenue isn’t where it needs to be, or you don’t manage to hire the candidate you thought would be the absolute key to turning the company around. When the chips are down, it’s all too easy to feel sorry for yourself, especially when it feels as though everything’s out of control. It wasn’t Mo Farah’s fault that he tripped, but instead of focusing on where he went wrong, what he did was to dig deep and focus on where he wanted to be, not where he’d come from.
Analysing your mistakes is important so you can learn from them and, hopefully, you won’t make the same mistake again. Getting stuck in a loop berating yourself about them is different, so after a proper analysis, move on and take the learnings with you and leave the self-blame behind. The thing that makes truly successful businesspeople (and entrepreneurs) is an ability to bounce back, learn from failure and move forward without compromising their appetite for risk, or indeed their self-belief.
If you don’t believe in yourself and your ability to win, nobody else will do it for you. By all means find a good coach and/or mentor to help you cross the minefield, but you’re the one who has to keep putting one foot after the other. When Mo Farah was out on the track picking himself up there was only one person who could help him get to the finishing line, so he told himself the race wasn’t done. Be inspired by his example when times are tough. The race is never done.