Many years ago when all the Olympic participants were meant to be amateurs, the stories that surrounded their preparation were focused on how they fitted it around their day jobs (or in the case of modern pentathlon gold medalist Mary Peters, bomb sites). Many had to beg for time off of work, and often it was unpaid. Their dedication was unquestionable, but their “work life balance”, which was a necessity rather than a choice, often worked against their chances of success.
Today it is totally different. Potential gold medal winners will effectively have had to have given their lives to the achievement of this ultimate Olympic goal. They will have put countless hours into training and development, honing what was already outrageous natural talent into something that is special enough to beat everybody else on the day to the top of the podium.
They will probably have no other career or job so to speak of, little or no social life, and probably limited opportunities for relationships unless their other half is also willing to commit themselves to the achievement of their partner’s dream. Such is the dedication and effort required to reach that pinnacle, and live the dream that they have had for so many years.
Management and leadership gurus are fond of using sports analogies to drive improvements in business performance. However I think more needs to be made of the dedication, coaching and training that is now required for sporting success.
Many successful entrepreneurs and business people are ferociously driven, with an unwavering commitment that matches that of any top sportsperson. The coaching side may sometimes be neglected, although a surprising number do have mentors or key people they turn to for advice.
Perhaps it is a little extreme to compare the dedication and preparation required of an Olympic athlete to succeed with that of an everyday member of Enterprise Britain. However I have always been struck by the fact that virtually all of the successful business people of my acquaintance have an almost single minded focus on what it is they want to achieve.
Rest and recovery does play an important role in any top athlete’s schedule but only as a part of the achieving the end goal. In a world where much is made of work life balances, minimum holiday requirements and flexible working it needs to be realised that dedication, focus and hard work is as much an essential part of business success as it is of sporting success.