Heera Training & Management Consultants

eNewsletter Sept 2008

Hi! And how are you all? Like most of you, I spent the last three weeks ‘parked’ in front of my television, watching in awe at the sporting spectacle that took place at the Beijing Olympics. As I was watching these world class athletes perform, I could not help but come to the conclusion that what we saw was just the tip of the iceberg i.e. we saw the performance but not the grueling training regime that each and every one of them must have undergone to ensure that they were in peak condition during the Olympics.  All of these dedicated athletes had to make a lot of sacrifices in terms of time, their social life, effort etc  in their single-mindedness to take part in this glorious once in four year sporting event.
Among this elite crowd, the one individual who stood head over shoulders above the rest was Michael Phelps. At 23, Michael  Phelps has become an international sporting sensation by winning eight gold medals and smashing seven world records in the process. He is also the first athlete ever to secure first place so many times at a single Olympics. 

Michael Phelps

The path to success for Michael Phelps was however not a smooth one.

  • At the age of seven Michael was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This is a childhood condition characterized by constant activity, impulsive behavior and the inability to focus one's attention on anything for a short span of time. To help release his pent-up energy, Phelps took up swimming.
  • At the age of nine, Michael's parents divorced. His mother brought up all three children (two sisters) single-handedly, encouraging them to follow their dreams at all costs. 
  • In 2004, Phelps, then 19, was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months probation, saying in court, "I recognize the seriousness of this mistake and will continue learning from this mistake for the rest of my life."

The reason I am telling you all this instead of glorifying his achievements, is to state that success was not handed on a silver platter to Michael. He like the rest of us has had his share of setbacks in life. In spite of all these however, he went on to become the supreme champion that he is currently. I believe there is much that we can learn from the success of Michael Phelps. Some of them are:
Setbacks are part of life and winners get on with it. In spite of the many setbacks early in his life, Michael bounced back every time and used these setbacks as building blocks to achieving more success.  He never ever allowed these setbacks to become obstacles or excuses in his quest for swimming success. Like him, we must realize that setbacks are part of nature’s way of making us all stronger. Using an analogy, we are all like a flame in the wind; some people use the wind to make their flame get bigger, whilst others blame the wind for blowing out their flame. Winners like Michael, always choose the former!
Dream big! Don’t let anyone tell you your goal is impossible. Imagine if Michael had told people a few years ago that he wanted to win eight gold medals at the Olympics. What do you think would have been their reaction! Yes, I am sure skepticism! If he had listened to these cynics, we would have been deprived of seeing his world class performances. He not only had big goals; he was totally focused and committed to it. In management we must all learn to shoot for the stars and maybe we will at least hit the moon! Never ever listen to the cynics. It is always in their interest not to see other people successful. 

Use failures and cynics to motivate you. At the Athens Olympics in 2004, Phelps was beaten by teammate Ian Crocker in the 100m butterfly. Instead of allowing this event to demoralize him, he used it as a source of inspiration to become even better. He put up a poster of Crocker winning the event in his bedroom to constantly motivate him to train even harder in the event. Another thing that motivated Michael was Ian Thorpe’s (the great Australian swimmer who won five gold medals at the Athens Olympics) statement that he thought winning eight gold medals was ‘unattainable’. Michael stuck a note with Thorpe’s statement on his locker to be used as a constant source of motivation. We all need to be motivated. What better way than to prove the cynics wrong or else to use our past failures to drive us to future success!!

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I do hope that I have in a way motivated you to go out there to achieve your life’s goals. Take decisive action now!!! And have a great month ahead!