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10 rules startups founders must learn from Olympians.

The parallels between sports and startups are endless. Startup founders should get inspiration Olympic athletes, starting with these 10 principles.


Forget about your competitors, you’re competing against yourself.
No matter how hard you try, the only control you’ll have in any given situation is over yourself. You can’t predict with 100% accuracy your competitor’s next move but you can plan yours. 

Know your strengths.
Getting to know yourself is key. It takes time and it’s not always pretty but being able to assess accurately your strength and weaknesses will make or break you. Reinvest your energy in your strengths.

Strengthen your weaknesses.
If knowing your strength is important, finding your weaknesses and fix them is crucial. If you can’t fix them, acknowledge them. Otherwise, denying them will bring you to my first point: you’ll become your own enemy. Athletes win by either outperforming their opponent or simply by doing less mistakes. Athletes learn to steer away from situations where their weaknesses can tank them.

Leverage your talents with hard work.
10 000 hours, right?Talent might be a gift but learning to use it and leverage it needs work. A lot of it.Start the clock and get to work. Perfect your art.

Risk is business as usual.
Athletes go all in… because there is no plan B. It’s normal, that’s how you win. If you’re not busting your ass all the time, every time, someone else will and chances are he’ll beat you to the line. Which incentally means that you lost.

Work with A-players. 
How Olympic champions keep improving their performances? By training with athletes better than themselves. Getting your ass kicked is the best way to improve yourself (and keeping your ego at check). There is always someone better than you somewhere. Until there isn’t… and then, technically, you win. (yay!) The only way to get ahead and stay there is to keep moving.

It’s not a one man show. 
Surround yourself with the right people. The journey to success is hard. Despite what it might look like, athletes are not in it alone. They surround themselves with a team of professionals to take care of everything ranging from their mental and physical health, finance, PR, taxes, you name it. As they grow, they off-load and delegate to keep the focus on what they do best.

Set goals and achieve them.
It’s easy for an athlete to follow a set of goals and targets because they are training for specific events that are set in time. They plan their training schedule to peak at the right time. They prepare a performance up to 4 years ahead, like for the Olympics. There is a fine line between over planning and just winging it. Find a balance and plan your startup’s growth like an athlete would.

Focus on the details.
There is no ‘lean athlete’ (sorry Eric Ries). Every day*, athletes push themselves. They do more distance, lift more weight, go faster, take less time, get more points… whatever is it that they are pursuing, they strive for it.As you get closer to the top, it’s the little things that matters. In the end it’s the small things that are responsible for the last tenth of a second, that extra inch or the perfect score.

*Take a day off. Sunday preferably.
Yeah yeah yeah, the startup grind right? Working 24/7/365 is great for convincing your friend and family that you are working hard but honestly, take a day off! Sunday is the unofficial international athletes day off. Rest and recovery accounts as much as hard work to your success. If you’re rested, you’ll make less mistake, be more motivated and efficient and you will probably be nicer to your cofounder and team.

Antoine
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