Motivation: The Business Athlete’s Challenge

This is the second post in the Monthly Motivation Series.  You can read the others here.

We Are All Athletes

Anyone interested in improving their own performance or the performance of others in any field should look through the lens of athlete.  Here’s how I define an athlete:

An athlete is someone who is consciously or unconsciously engaged in the process of training their mental and physical abilities which impact their performance in a given sport or game.

What Game Are You Playing?

For good or bad, athletes are engaged in a process that determines their performance in a game.  And how they discover, learn, manage and live that process impacts how well they can play the game.

A mom is an athlete, playing the game of motherhood.  A university student is an athlete playing the game of college…

A contractor is an athlete playing the game of business.  Your employees and co-workers are athletes playing on the same team in the game of business.  This isn’t about physical capability – it’s about the performance process.  The day-to-day decisions you make impact your performance in whatever game you’re playing.  How we eat, how we think, how we spend our time, etc. is (consciously or unconsciously) part of the training process that determines our performance in whatever game we play. We are all athletes.

What Motivates Olympic Athletes?

How do Olympic athletes motivate themselves to do all the day-in, day-out work required to get to the level needed to compete in the Olympics?  Many of these athletes are working full time jobs, on top of full time training.

They sacrifice years of their lives in pursuit of their dream.  And even if they make it to the Olympics – the competition is so fierce – the chance of winning often boils down to a fraction of a second.

Why do they get up early and go to bed late working the process of their sport?  Why do they keep going when there is no guarantee of success?  What motivator is powerful enough to keep them going?  In a word…


Somewhere, sometime – they saw the challenge and accepted it.  They want to see if they have what it takes to be the best athlete in the world at their sport.  They want gold.  Accepting a challenge is a way to draw energy from all the people who think it can’t be done.  Being challenged can energize all your resources and help you rise to the occasion.  Challenge can provide critical fuel for the, repetitive, sometimes boring day-in-day-out work that forms the foundation of success.  And a challenge can drive achievement in any field – athletics, business, science, education – even space travel…

We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win…  – John F. Kennedy, September 1962

Ramp Up Your Business Motivation With A Challenge

In the olympics – winning a challenge is black and white and easy to define.  It’s about winning a gold medal determined by achieving the best score or time.   In business – challenges are more grey and measuring victory is less clear.

To grab the motivation that comes from a business challenge – first define it as an athlete would.

Create Your Business Motivation Challenge:

  1. Choose your opponent.  Who are you playing against?  A competitor, a goal, your past performance?
  2. Make it real – Give your opponent a face and a name – something that’s tangible.  For instance – if your challenge is increasing sales 20% in the 3rd quarter you can print a sign of a trophy that say’s  “20%”.  Put it in a place you’ll see it and be confronted by it daily.  Each time you see it – strengthen your resolve to win and crush this challenge.
  3. Have a symbol of victory – In the Olympics a gold medal is the ultimate symbol of winning a challenge.  What’s your gold medal?    It may be a tee-shirt with “I won the 20% challenge.” on it.  It may be a trophy, medal or certificate you create.  Whatever it is – your symbol represents the physical recognition you’ve EARNED for accepting and winning a challenge.  And just as athletes visualize themselves standing on the podium, wearing gold, to keep them going during hard training, your victory symbol can keep everyone focused when the going gets tough.

“The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or a curse.” ― Carlos Castaneda

I Dare You.

If you’ve read this far – then you’re the type of person who’s interested in making things happen.  Someone who steps up to a challenge and crushes it.  Here’s your chance.
I challenge you to create a challenge using the 3 steps above.  Have the guts to describe your challenge in the comments on this post and I’ll make sure, win or lose, you get the recognition you deserve for being in the game!


Meantime – in the spirit of the upcoming Olympic games – check out this promo video for the 2012 London Olympic Games…
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