There’s a framed quote on my kids’ wall that says, “A champion is someone who gets up when they can’t.” Taken literally, this makes no sense. But the spirit of the message is powerful and important.
In the Rio Olympics, there were moments of exhilaration and exasperation. Some athletes went beyond excellence and became champions. Mónica Puig won Puerto Rico’s first ever gold medal, and her island exploded in joy. Simone Manuel became the first black American woman to win an individual gold medal in swimming. There was also heartbreak. After an 86-mile race, American bicyclist Mara Abbott lost a comfortable lead just 150 meters from the finish line. A few seconds before winning gold, she was passed by three riders and slipped suddenly from first place to fourth. Olympic memories transcend sports and inspire us to reach higher, dig deeper and go farther.
1. Believe. Great competitors believe in themselves. You should, too. At the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, the U.S. men’s hockey team faced impossible odds. Still, the young amateurs won gold, including a victory over the bigger, stronger, older Soviet team. People will say discouraging things to you, intentionally or inadvertently. You’ll experience moments of doubt and frustration. Everyone does. But believe in yourself
2. Prepare. Your competitors work hard. You have to work harder. The 1980 hockey team was coached by Herb Brooks, known for brutal training. But the training paid off and Brooks was proven right. As other teams began to tire late in the tournament, the Americans tapped a reserve of energy, an extra source of stamina made possible by the preparation. To achieve greatness, you have to work unimaginably hard
3. Overcome adversity. While training for the 1994 Winter Olympics, figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was viciously struck in the knee by a baton. But champions get up. Seven weeks later, Kerrigan performed the best routines of her life in Lillehammer to win silver. Her courage and grace outshined the gold medalist. It was a breathtaking triumph of the human spirit. As she spins spectacularly at the end of her program, Kerrigan bursts into tears of relief and joy. Two years later at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, American gymnast Kerri Strug somehow performed one last routine, with a sprained ankle and damaged tendon, to clinch gold. You can do this. It’s going to hurt but you can do it
4. Concentrate. Olympic greatness requires perfect focus and precision. At the moment of maximum pressure and exhaustion, athletes master their emotions and excel. Don’t be distracted by the noise around you. Focus and perform
5. Support your teammates. Pass the ball, root for others. You’re on a team. Even individual sports are group efforts, with coaches and teammates encouraging each athlete. Swimmer Katie Ledecky talks about Team USA. Simon Biles, the most decorated American gymnast ever, praises Aly Raisman, the second most decorated American gymnast. As part of a team, you will achieve greatness
6. Be gracious. After winning the Rio marathon, Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya congratulated American Galen Rupp on his bronze medal, lifting Rupp to embrace him. He later said Rupp would one day set a world record. In Rio’s 5,000-meter women’s track, New Zealander Nikki Hamblin fell and tripped American Abbey D’Agostino. The two runners then repeatedly helped each other up, finished together and embraced at the finish line. Having not known each other previously, Hamblin and D’Agostino later spoke of service, sacrifice and a new friendship. Hamblin says the act of kindness was the best thing that’s happened in her career. Transcending excellence, this sportsmanship represents greatness. Be this person, the gracious teammate your colleagues will always remember
7. Respect your opponent. Beyond his record-breaking achievements on the Rio track, Usain Bolt demonstrated respect for his opponents. While being interviewed on TV, Bolt stopped the conversation to stand in silent attention when the American national anthem began to play. In the Rio men’s tennis, Juan Martin del Potro upset Novak Djokovic in a four-hour match. Afterwards, they embraced at the net and del Potro wept in exhaustion, accomplishment and appreciation for his opponent. Respect your adversary and honor the contest. You share the same goal and should share the same values with mutual respect
8. Don’t show off. At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, American snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis was leading comfortably, on her way to a gold medal when she attempted a superfluous maneuver. She fell and was passed. Jacobellis recovered to win silver but she lost the gold. Be humble. Don’t brag
9. Be part of something greater than yourself. Watch athletes during the medal ceremony and see how gratifying accomplishment is when it’s part of something bigger than an individual. Boxer George Foreman worked at a gas station as a teenager when his cousin said he would never amount to anything. A few years later, he was transformed, winning the gold medal at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Foreman said his achievement was meaningful because he represented his country. Remember your career has purpose, like growing an endowment’s assets
10. Endure. Even Michael Phelps needed a comeback. The most decorated Olympian of all time doesn’t always win and made his share of mistakes. He slipped, suffered and struggled. Everyone does. No one is perfect. Do your best, forgive yourself and get back in the pool. Britain’s Mo Farah won the Rio 10,000-meter after being accidentally tripped. Impossibly, Farah got up, returned to the race and won the gold. So hang in there. Get up. And consider this: The Rio Paralympics begin on September 7
Hedge funds are the Olympics of Wall Street, the pinnacle of finance, the peak of investing. Even the best get knocked down. Champions get up. Beyond excellence lies greatness. The elite managers who endure combine their talent with the invaluable elements of success: Teamwork, preparation, communication, humility, graciousness, conviction and untiring, unwavering, relentless effort.