5 Ways to Play Your Career Like an Olympic Athlete

This week some of the world's best athletes arrive in Sochi for the 2014 Olympic games. Their performances are so good they appear to be effortless, but that level of skill and precision did not come overnight. I'm not ready for the ski jump anytime soon (or ever), but studying how these athletes got to the top can provide us with some great takeaways. Here are five traits of Olympians that you can apply to your career right now:


1. Accountability
Olympic events leave no room to hide. When you compete, the world sees your performance and notes your results, good or bad. Here's a surefire way to be remarkable in business -- agree to be held accountable for your results and you will instantly have measures and commitments to work towards.

"Part of being a champ is acting like a champ. You have to learn how to win and not run away when you lose."

-Nancy Kerrigan, USA Olympic Figure Skater Silver Medalist

2. Focus
Olympians learn to turn off the head trash, which can easily infiltrate our day to day. Jim Fannin, author of the 90-Second Rule, says that the best athletes and business leaders go from B to A first envisioning winning gold, closing the deal, or reaching the hall of fame, then moving back to examine the steps they must take along the way.

"Every once in a while I run the Olympic downhill in Japan in my head. I think of how the energy is going to flow and then I make it all work for myself."

- Picaboo Street, USA Alpine Skiing Gold Medalist

3. Planning
No Olympian shows up without having developed an extensive plan of attack years in advance. In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell reported that it takes 10,000 hours to gain mastery in a field. When I was in college a classmate wrote out a plan for how he would end up owning a restaurant, outlining every step along the way from busboy to eventual owner. Think he achieved his goal? Of course he did -- he had a plan.

"I am building a fire, and every day I train, I add more fuel. At just
the right moment, I light the match."

- Mia Hamm, Women's Soccer Gold Medalist

4. Coaching
The athlete wins gold, but behind the scenes there is always a coach who guided them through the years of preparation and practice to get to a flawless performance. The same goes for business. The greats take the steps to surround themselves with mentors, colleagues and coaches better than themselves. When you envision your end goal, who do you need on your team to help you get there?

"Brian Shimer has been my coach since the beginning. We've been through so much together - the ups, the downs, the triumphs and the heartbreaks. I'm thankful not just for him being such a great coach, behind me every step of my journey to the top, but for being there for me as a friend off the track as well."

- Steven Holcomb, USA Bobsledding Gold Medalist

5. Action
It is only human to avoid failure, however, Olympians develop the unconscious ability to act and be in the moment. Nike's slogan "just do it" may be overquoted, but there is a reason why we feel emotion seeing images of top athletes jumping in head first. In business we easily hide behind texting, tweeting and "to do" lists when we really should just get in the game.

"You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take"

-Wayne Gretzky, NHL Player and Hall of Famer