Going for Olympic Gold Not Much Different From Winning at Work

Take It From a Former Olympic Figure Skater

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Mirko Mueller-Goolsbey
Mirko Mueller-Goolsbey
As a top-10 Olympic pairs figure skater at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, and bronze medalist at the World Championships that same year, I can tell you the sight of the Olympic rings and the lighting of the torch was as fresh to me this year as it was 12 years ago. While business attire, thankfully, is more versatile and can be worn in many more places than the feathers, rhinestones and, yes, "man cleavage" many of the male skaters in this Olympics choose to don, there are a number of parallels when it comes to preparation for a big client meeting or presentation.

Set a goal or objective. Clearly define and maybe even visualize the best possible result. Without being completely clear on what you are trying to achieve, neither you nor the judges/clients know what to expect and how to judge. It is all about setting the right expectations.

Prepare, prepare, prepare. In sports you call it practice. Once you have defined your objective(s), map out your plan (training schedules) and prepare (training sessions). As in sports, calm confidence comes from knowing your stuff and having researched and analyzed all relevant information (practice), while making sure you have considered alternative scenarios (competitive surprises).

Never think you have the best and only solution. It is one solution and hopefully, but not necessarily, the best. There is no resting on "business as usual," as that's the time you find your competition has just outsmarted you -- while you took a break or believed your own PR. It has happened numerous times when I thought I had gone the extra mile only to find out that someone else simply defined the last mile as a little longer.

There is such a thing as too much attention to detail. Don't forget the big picture. It is easy to perfect one particular move or element only to run out of time to practice a full run-through or to double-check whether the rules have changed.

True and lasting success takes time to build. There is no shortcut to success. In my case it took 20 years of training until I was prepared and ready to make it onto the Olympic team. And did I perform my best at the Olympics? Heck no. In hindsight there are many things I could have done better, more of or simply different. Yet, did I achieve everything I set out to do when I was in my early teens? Absolutely -- and more. I would have never been able to accomplish those things without the help of a huge team.

By now, the Olympics are over. Sore muscles will be tended to, sleep caught up on, families and friends revisited.

Stories of victory will be told and told again.

But the greatest athletes, whether they won or lost, will very likely be back in the business of reinvention, looking for game-changing ideas that will engage and delight their audiences and make their countries proud all over again. And though the Olympic flame will soon be stored away for another four years, business goes on. But maybe we can take away a little inspiration on what it takes to produce a world-class product or service.

Mirko Mueller-Goolsbey is an account supervisor for McKinney, Durham, N.C.
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