The smallest sliver of the world’s population will ever get to call themselves Olympians. Less than 10% of us end up running our own business. These two things are what many of us say we aspire to achieve yet many of us don’t make it. Brooke Neal is someone who has done both. Here are the three tools you can take from an Olympian and entrepreneur and apply these tools as she has to your own life.
Tool 1: Be coachable
Michael Jordan attributes his success to being coachable. A person who is coachable not only responds well when given feedback, they ask for feedback. They view the input from others as a pivotal tool in their development. They also are willing to take action and make personal changes based on the feedback.
“After losing our semi-final to Great Britain we literally had one day to turn around and play for our bronze medal match. Not only did we have to deal with not making it through but we also had to reflect on everything we could have done better and be coached to get the outcome we were looking for. When you’re at the peak of your performance, a 1% is a huge difference between you and your competitors, and when you’re someone who can be coached and shown where that extra 1% from you is pivotal,” said Neal.
Most of us aren’t actively soliciting advice for our performance but we need to as it’s the fastest path to improvement. Taking a tactile approach to feedback requires three things:
1. Setting a goal for where you want to head and sharing it with someone who wants to help you improve
2. Measuring your time and reviewing how well it’s been spent (here is how I do mine)
3. Then you need to share how you’ve spent this time with the person you’ve selected to help you improve and have them identify where you’re wasting time or how to be more effective with the time you’ve spent
Being coachable is a choice. When you make the decision to be open to feedback it’s the fastest path to success as you’ll not only learn from your mistakes but also avoid the mistakes of others who have made them already.
Tool 2: Create high standards
In 2018, Jeff Bezos released his annual letter to shareholders about why high standards are important. The sentiment that both Neal and Bezos shared is that high standards are contagious.
“Setting a high standard allows you to reach goals you hadn’t thought were possible but your team also holds you to them. If you’re not performing to the standards you set for yourself and your group, you’re not giving it your best and that’s the biggest thing you can contribute. Finally, I’d add yes, set high standards. But constantly review and ask yourself whether they are helping or harming you.” said Neal.
Whether you are an Olympian or simply a new employee joining a new company both will quickly adapt to the environment that is set by the group. If your standards are high people will adopt the same values but the inverse is also true. Low standards can as easily become adopted which is why it’s so important to set the bar high.
Creating a standard for yourself and your team allows you to say no to distractions and things that won’t get you to where you need to go. Bezos finishes his letter with “A culture of high standards is protective of all the “invisible” but crucial work that goes on in a company”.
To build the standards that will take you where you want to go you need to:
1. Set the bar for a goal that seems just out of reach given your current skill set but you know that others have achieved before
2. Ask yourself what would a person or company who has achieved this goal do on a regular basis
3. Set a written standard so that your own actions mimic the behaviours that this person or company used to get to where they are
Everyone is competing for a piece of your attention, high standards stop you from being pulled on the wrong path. The trick here is to constantly monitor these standards to see if they will harm you or help you.
Tool 3: Focus on what you can control
Phil Jackson, the 11-time championship-winning NBA coach has said that players need to focus on what they need to do and master the art of letting go. Neal echos this in her thoughts about how you control your own path to success.
“Fear comes from a lack of preparation. Most of us are trying to respond to things that aren’t our job and as a result, we add too many things to our plate. If we focus on doing our job the rest becomes easier,” said Neal.
An Olympian has little choice but to focus on being their best at their job otherwise they’ll be dropped for someone else who can do just that. The same goes for us as individuals when running our own lives, careers, and companies. If we focus on being the best we can be at the task at hand we can ignore the rest of the noise.
In a world where everyone is incentivised to pull you away from the path, you are trying to build for yourself focusing on what you can control is a superpower. If you’re distracted by the latest news article, breaking fashion trend, or detailed drama of a friend you’ll divert your attention from what matters most.
To do this you need to:
1. Write down a list of what you can truly control and list these out (your emotions, your time, and your actions)
2. Understand that anything that falls outside of those buckets needs to be placed in another category called “outside of your control”.
3. When you’re stressed look at the factors surrounding the issues you’re facing and take action by looking at what you do have in your control
The best athletes and business owners are masters of dictating what they do with their time and saying no to external events they have no control over. We can be the same.
Jeffrey Pfeffer has said you can’t be normal and expect abnormal returns. The same is true for the tactics shared by Neal in this article, most people won’t make these changes but those who do will live a life different from most.
If you want to learn more about Brooke you can find her work over at All About Balance or just google “Brooke Neal”. You find here work where she is helping hundreds of female athletes achieve the incredible outcomes she has and in her words, “To be who I needed when I was younger”.