I spent nearly twenty years of my life pursuing an Olympic dream. In the end, I finished third in the U.S. Olympic Trials, which was good enough to call myself an Olympic alternate, but not good enough to allow me a chance at Olympic glory. Although, I spent so many years pursuing a dream I didn't reach, I have no regrets. The experiences I have had, the relationships I built, and the lessons I learned are worth more than gold.
Early on, in my athletic career, I discovered a common ingredient that all successful athletes had. I am not talking about great motivation and drive. Yes, that is very important, but in itself it is not enough to reach the highest levels of achievement. A high level of motivation might lead an athlete to a great high school career but not to an Olympic Gold.
What about God given natural athletic ability?
Well, that sure doesn't hurt and we'd all like it, but that's not it either. I have seen many athletes of average natural ability achieve great accomplishments and athletes of exceptional ability do nothing.
What about writing down your goals? This is also very important and I highly recommend it, but it's not that final missing ingredient.
So here it is! Every great athlete seeks out the best coaches and the best workout partners (teammates).
They learn from the best and they train with the best. Soon they become the best. A great coach will guide his athletes in what they need to do to win. The coach will be knowledgeable of the most effective techniques and strategies required for success. He will build a relationship with his athletes and learn how to motivate them and keep them on course when they start to wander in the wrong direction.
Having great workout partners is as important as having a great coach, and possibly more important. Having great workout partners can keep an athlete motivated even without a word of encouragement being spoken.
When I was preparing for the Olympic Trials, I trained with a club in Albany, New York led by a great coach named Joe DeMeo. I learned many high level techniques from him and he was a great motivator. He impacted my wrestling career more than any other coach. As great as he was, my training partners were my greatest benefit. At that time, you couldn't find a wrestling room filled with more talent anywhere in the country.
We had 17 All-Americans in our small club grinding it out everyday. In 1984, three of our wrestlers earned a spot on the Olympic Team and three more were alternates. One, Jeff Blatnick, went on to win the Gold Medal after winning a battle with Cancer. There was no pep rally needed in our room. Our club repeated the feat in 1988 with three more Olympians and three more alternates.
Now, here is the real jewel. When a less talented athlete trains regularly with a more talented athlete, the weaker athlete will close the talent gap 95% of the time. It is very unlikely that the more talented athlete will pull further away from his less talented partner, with all other variables remaining constant.
An example of this was at the 2000 Olympic Wrestling Trials. I watched my friend; Brandon Slay beat his coach and mentor for a spot on the Olympic Team. Brandon attended college at the University of Pennsylvania. His college assistant coach, who became his workout partner, was still competing and was one of the top ranked wrestlers in the nation. When they first started training together, Brandon was certainly not in the same league as his training partner and coach but a few years later Brandon defeated him in the trials. Brandon went on to win the Olympic Gold Medal!
In business, there are many stories of people who have achieved great achievements solely by their own drive and ingenuity but the vast majority of high achievers had mentors or coaches if you will. They had someone who showed them the way, and helped them to avoid unnecessary mistakes.
Successful business leaders surround themselves with other successful people, whom they assimilate further knowledge from. They pick up business techniques and strategies in the same way an athlete learns from his workout partners.
So the "path to victory" is a path that is crowded with successful and victorious people. Stay on that path, grab a coat tail if you must and keep moving forward, toward the front of the line.
Recently, a friend asked me if I would be interested in helping him launch a new company that was pioneering new inroads in genetically guided nutrition. The first thing I thought was; who would be my coach and where am I going to find workout partners that will challenge me?
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