10 Gold-Medal Winning Strategies You Can Use to Win at Life

All it took was Corn Flakes and 17 years of practice! (Credit: Scott Halleran/Getty Images for Kelloggs)

You’re standing up on that Olympic podium grinning like the champion you are.

Blowing kisses to your family, striking a pose for photographers and even texting the President of the United States.

“You killed it, son” he texts.

“Thanks for the support B. Great to see Michelle in the stands!” you text back.

As the national anthem starts playing, you couldn’t be prouder of your Olympic gold-medal. You worked your entire life for this moment and are now being recognized with 6 grams of gold and an offer to be on the cover of a Corn Flakes box.

10 gold-medal winning strategies for your life

You don’t have to be an gold-medal winning Olympian like Ryan Lochte or Missy Franklin to win the game of life. This is especially relevant if you have no idea how to swim the butterfly, get on a pommel horse or have any other skill that will land you in the Olympic games.

Here are 10 observations that I made about these Olympians that we all can start implementing in our own lives today:

1. Have a strategy. Olympians, especially gold-medal winning ones don’t show up for the big day without a plan. They’ve got a strategy to win the day and the gold; almost every move is examined, discussed and planned ahead prior to game day.

You need a strategy as well to win at life. When setting goals or pursuing dreams, have a plan of where you’re going. Get friends, experts and advisors help you plan the journey so you know where you’re going and have the best strategy to get you there. If you don’t have a strategy, you may never get to your destination.

2. Play as a team. Olympians play as a team and credit their supporting cast for their success. And no, it’s not just in the team competitions. Even in individual competitions like swimming or running, there’s a whole cast of teammates, coaches, family members and others who are part of the athlete’s team.

Have a team in your own life – a close network of people who support you. Actively bring together, seek the counsel of and ask your supporting team for ideas, strategies and improvements  to help you live a better life. Those that are negative towards your or don’t support you should be kept at bay.

3. Keep pushing forward. Even after a tough loss in the pool or losing a basketball match in the early rounds, Olympians look ahead.

When Michael Phelps got out of the water after his first competition in the 400 IM, coming in fourth place, he told the irritating NBC reporter that he was off to a bad start with this race but wanted to put the race behind him and focus on the other races coming up.

You can’t simmer on your losses. When things go wrong, horribly wrong sometimes, you have regroup, reflect a bit on what went wrong and then forge ahead. On your path to a dream or goal, momentary defeats and losses are bound to happen. You have to keep your eye on the prize and move forward despite setbacks that may get in your way.

4. Go for the gold. Winning Olympians come into the games to win gold.

Several times, we’ve seen Olympic athletes disappointed, even unfairly devastated, for snagging a silver medal. This only means one thing – they came in looking for the top prize.

It’s good to have your eyes set on winning “the” prize. Don’t settle for second best – go for the gold. Having said that, do keep the next strategy in mind too.

5. Do your best. You can’t be the best every time. Sometimes, you’re going to lose. Ryan Lochte loses. Michael Phelps loses. Missy Franklin loses. Gabby Douglas…well, ok fine.

But many world-class athletes lose even when they are pursuing gold. You can go in desiring to win the game or top the competition but all you can be expected to do at the end of the day is to do your best.

If you do your best and live up to your potential, most of the times you win.

But not always. Be prepared to accept that your best may not always win the day and that’s ok!

6. Go hard until the end. Have you seen how many games, races or matches have gone down to the wire? I mean, even the U.S. men’s basketball team recently just won a game by a mere 5 points against Lithuania!  Which means they could have lost if they didn’t play their heart’s out for the last few minutes of the game.

You have to be persistent and determined and not just sporadically. Sometimes when the going gets tough, you must buckle down and push through even harder to accomplish your goals. It’s usually when you push through the most difficult part of the journey that you’ll break through.

When you feel like giving up, don’t! Go strong until the end.

7. Be prepared. Not only do those Boy Scouts love to be prepared but Olympians and world-class performers in any sport or venture arrive with copious preparation.

Olympians put in thousands of hours for a one minute or one hour activity, depending on their sport. Imagine spending thousands upon thousands of hours to win the hundred meter dash which is less than a 10 second race.

If you’re pursuing a goal or dream in life, or trying to become better in your profession or passion, you must be prepared. Preparation means practice, perfecting your craft and  dedication when you might want to give up.

Many times, the difference in winning is the person who showed up most prepared.

8. Don’t listen to the chatter. Many Olympians have an ability to tune out the chatter from analysts, sportscaster and the tabloids. While the news media and gossip-mongers are dissecting the lives and capabilities of the athletes, the athletes themselves have tuned out from all the chatter out there.

If you’re going to succeed, you have to be open to valid criticism and ideas for improvement from your inner circle. But you absolutely cannot listen to the haters, doubters and detractors in your life. You may not have paparazzi and the news media but your rumor-spreading, gossip-mongering friends and relatives need to stay out of your life.

Even if you can’t keep them out of your life, do your best to keep their inappropriate comments and criticisms at a distance.

9. Focus on your game. Olympians are 100% focused on their own game. In the individual events especially, they don’t appear to be competing against the competition. They go in focusing on what they need to do to win. They understand their strengths and weaknesses and have a strategy to do their best.

You cannot be bothered what the competition is doing. Sure, you can occasionally glance at the progress of your competitors in life but more often than not, it’s not going to be helpful. It might make you feel worse, dis-empowered or like you’re falling behind. No need to keep up with your peers; focus on your game.

10. Enjoy and be grateful. Why do Olympians look like they are having the time of their lives?

More than once, I’ve heard an Olympian say they’re going to go out there and have fun.

Have fun during one of the most high-pressure, gut-wrenching circumstances in their lives??

Apparently so. You need to enjoy the experience or the journey on your way to the destination. Only when you appreciate and enjoy the struggle to get through a crocodile-filled river can you truly enjoy the safety of having made it across.

When you’re enjoying yourself, you’re more relaxed and focused on achieving your goals. Remind yourself why you started on the journey in the first place and to slow down and enjoy the process.

Athletes are also always grateful for their accomplishments and thank their coach, their Mom, God and everyone in between. They know their efforts were their own but it took a village to make them into the gold-medal winning Olympian they are today.

Don’t forget to regularly show gratitude to those who are helping you achieve your goals and supporting your endeavors. Without them, you wouldn’t be as far along on your path as you are.

Do you agree with these life lessons I’ve picked up from the Olympians? Which ones resonate with you? What have I forgotten? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

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13 Comments

  1. Vishnu,

    What you said about playing as a team really struck me. It is one of my favorite things about blogging. You develop a team of mutually supportive community members and that is incredibly valuable and rewarding. It is great being on your team!

    1. Thanks Wendy – enjoy having you on the team as well:) We all need a team in life. If we don’t have one, we can make one:)

  2. I appreciate 8&9. Sometimes we feel great until we look around and see everyone else going faster and farther in life, forgetting that we were fine with ourselves 2 seconds ago.

    1. Thanks Down. Can’t listen to the chatter around us in life as hard as it may be. Also, who cares what others are doing? It’s hard to be disciplined about this but can be done.

  3. Amazing, Vishnu! “Have a team in your own life – a close network of people who support you.” – I think this one is particularly important. It’s incredible how powerful encouraging words can be, or even simply lack of negative words. Gosh, this world is full of negative, full-of-regrets people who could win gold medals in squashing optimism and people’s dreams, isn’t it? Over the last few years, I’ve made a real effort to spend more time with people who inspire me. It helps keep me focused and fuels me up on determination. Thanks for this, V.

    1. Thanks Jody – we all need our own team. Keep the naysayers far away and the supporters close to us. I think being conscious and mindful of who we associate with is key! Glad you’re on the Virtues team:)

  4. Vishnu,

    These are good, REAL GOOD! I like how you connected the Olympics with real life. It fits rather beautifullly. These are people who have given their life, everything they have to reach these moments.

    So which one resonates with me. So hard! I feel like they all do :). But since you are forcing me to choose I am going to go with number 1… Okay, maybe that is because I reread the list about 4 times and kept saying “I like this one, and this one, and this one” FOR EVERY SINGLE ONE! So finally, I just went with the first one :).

    I believe we must always have a strategy. Even when I push forward and just go for it, I always have a deeper plan backing my actions. I believe that a strategy even when it completely fails is imperative. Why? In short, a strategy allows us to always learn. If I try to implement a plan and it fails I can now sit back and assess this plan. I now, can change the plan and hopefully set myself up for success.

    If I do not have a strategy it limits my ability to learn. If I fail (without a strategy) it is more difficult to determine why I failed. If I succeed (without a strategy) the same story goes- It is hard to understand why I was successful.

    A truly excellent Post V! Practical and real.

    1. Appreciate the feedback Izzy. Glad you found all the points useful.

      Strategy is key and you’re living your life according to strategy in everything you do. If we don’t have a plan to get there, we may never get there. We may not even know where we’re trying to get to. Strategies, or systems, help us create a shortcut to get things done too. We can only build upon success if we know what worked and what didn’t. Like you say, a strategy allows us to learn and go back and assess what went wrong.

  5. Hi Vishnu,

    Great article with your trademark humour since we are having the Olympics right now! 🙂

    I think you have put together 10 gold-medal winning strategies for life. The ones that stand out for me the most are as follows.

    1. Have a strategy.

    We need to have clear goals and the right strategies to achieve them. If we don’t know where we are going, chances are we will end up nowhere.

    7. Be prepared.

    Being prepared is one of the keys to success in life. Napoleon was very concerned with being prepared and all the fine details in his armies. This intensive preparation to cover all possibilities brought him a lot of his greatest victories. It is the same with life. The more prepared we are for possibilities, the more likely we are to get the outcome we want.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely article!

    Irving the Vizier

    1. Thanks Vizier – glad you enjoyed those 2 points. YOu’re a man of strategy and preparation – that’s why you win:) Olympians and Napoleon seem to know that too!

  6. Hey Vishnu,

    Sorry, but I can’t do it. So I pick 1 to 10 🙂

    Only thing I would say is that the strategy should not be too rigid. It has to leave room for set-backs and change beyond our control.

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