Michael Phelps and Outstanding Performance

Outstanding performance is one of the keys to success that I discuss in Straight Talk for Success.  If you want to become an outstanding performer, you need to do three things: 1) become a lifelong learner; 2) set and achieve high goals; and 3) get organized.

Right now, I can’t think of a more outstanding performer than Michael Phelps.  He has won eight gold medals in the 2008 Olympics.  He has 14 career gold medals.  No one else has won more than nine career Olympic Gold Medals; and that includes Olympic legends like Mark Spitz and Carl Lewis.

Jill Koenig is The Goal Guru.  She is a bestselling Author, Coach and Motivational Speaker, and an expert on the subjects of Goal Setting, Time Management and Business Success. Her Goal in life is to help you unleash your untapped potential. You can learn about her cutting edge Goal Strategies at http://www.GoalGuru.com

I subscribe to her ezine.  Yesterday, she posted a tremendous article on Michael Phelps.  She has graciously agreed to allow me to post it here.

How You Can Model Michael Phelps’ Champion Habits in Your Own Life

By Jill Koenig

Although I had a busy travel schedule this past week, just like millions of people around the world, I was glued to the television every time Michael Phelps took to the water in the Olympics.  Because success leaves clues, I study the best of the best in every sport, business or craft I possibly can, and you should too.

Sometimes in life what separates first place from second place is one point, a fraction of an inch or even a tiny millisecond that requires the most sophisticated technology to measure. Those small gaps define who wears the Gold Medal around their neck, who breaks a world record, who earns millions of dollars in endorsements and who graces the top magazine covers.

You may feel you have nothing in common with Michael Phelps but the fact is that there is a Champion inside you. 

There is a Champion inside you. 

Perhaps your area of passion is being a parent or an entrepreneur or a weekend athlete or a singer or writer… whatever your Goal, you don’t have to be a swimmer to unleash it.  All you have to do is apply a few simple strategies to your own pursuits and practice them consistently everyday.

Here are Five Things You Can Do Today to Be a Champion Like Michael Phelps

1. Improve on the Small Things that Make a Big Difference

Phelps was asked how he can break world records, sometimes by a whopping one or two seconds (in swimming this is huge).  His answer was simple and something you can apply to your own life starting today:  Phelps said, "In swimming there are so many little things you can change that really do make a big difference in the end.  We’re able to go back to the drawing board and work on the small things that can make a big difference."

What areas of your life can you change some small things that will make a big difference?  Perhaps it is something as simple as going to bed a little earlier, eating healthier, exercising smarter, reading more, advancing your education by taking a class, scheduling regular dates with your spouse and children or getting a Coach to help you improve your efficiency, proficiency and stay on track with your Goals.  Whatever it is, identify those areas and make the change.

2.  Study Other Champions

Phelps was asked what separates those who are gifted from those who performed in clutch moments and won.  Phelps said, "For me when I watch other sports, when I watch Tiger Woods, when I watch Roger Federer, when I watch Rafael Nadal, the best athletes can compete under any circumstances.  No matter what it is, no matter what the pressure, you can always overcome whatever is put in your way."

I have studied top athletes long enough to know that there is an inner game and an outer game that must be harnessed for one to achieve absolute Mastery of a thing.  There are many long hours of practice as well as having the attitude that you will overcome anything that comes your way.  Work on both your inner game and your outer game simultaneously.
Phelps studies Champions in other sports and you should too.  There are always lessons to be learned and applied to your life.

3.  Put Blinders on to Focus Your Energy When it’s Time to Perform

Did you notice that prior to entering the water for each race, Michael Phelps was wearing headphones and covered his head with a hoodie?  This was to block out the outer noise and distractions and stay focused on his own predetermined priorities.  He was in his own world, he was in the zone.

We all have those moments when we must perform at our very best.  This could be during a sales call, a workout, a meeting with your boss, a presentation in front of a live audience, etc.  During those times it is important to get yourself into a peak state of focused concentration.  You can do this to begin your day, prepare for a race, get psyched for a workout or any occasion anytime you want.
Phelps listened to Young Jeezy during the World Championships which he dominated. Choose the music that gets you revved up and visualize yourself succeeding in the activity.  Practice positive self talk.  You’re the best at what you do. See it.  Go there.  Be it.

4.  Do what you love

Phelps was asked how it feels to be the worlds fastest swimmer.  He said, "I don’t think about it like that. I think of it as something I love to do and I am having fun with it."

Champions do what they love and love what they do.  The amount of time it takes to achieve the level where you’re competing against the best of the best and come out on top means you must be extraordinary.  To be extraordinary, sometimes you have to give up some of the things normal people do like hanging out with friends, eating fatty fast foods, staying up late and vegging out for hours in front of the tv.  Instead you use those hours to practice and with the hours in between, you treat your mind/body like
the fine tuned, high performing machine that it is.   

Phelps recognized he had the opportunity of a lifetime.
When asked what scarifies he had to make for swimming, he said, "Doing normal high school kid things was something I was willing to give up.  I know I won’t have opportunities like this in the sport for the rest of my life."

What areas of your life could you rearrange or re prioritize in order to raise another certain area of your life to new levels?  What could you let go of to make room for the Goals and Dreams you truly desire?

5.  Finish Strong

The race that absolutely left me speechless was the "Miracle Finish" in the race between Phelps and Serbia’s Milorad Cavic. In the final seconds, it appeared Phelps would come in second.  In the last few feet at the finish, Cavic coasted to the end while Phelps fought for it with everything he had.  Even when Cavic had the lead, Phelps never gave up.  He fought to the finish.

I wondered how many times in life we go 90% of the way there only to fizzle out or coast at the end.  Regardless of whether you think you have it won or not, give it your all right up to the very end. That’s what Champions do.

I learned in working with my Trainers Darin and Cordell, that your greatest growth comes when your muscles burn and fatigue and every sensation is telling you to quit. At first it seems like that’s all you have left. But those one or two extra reps AFTER that point are the key.

That extra effort is where the real growth and magic happens.

These few lessons are just some of what I extracted from watching Michael Phelps become the greatest Olympian of all time.  They are things that you and I can easily do every single day if we simply apply them to our lives.

Unleash your inner Champion.

Live Your Dreams,

Jill Koenig

The common sense point here is simple.  Outstanding performers become champions.  Champions, like Michael Phelps do five things especially well.  1) Champions do the small things well and they continually improve on them.  2) Champions study other champions and learn from them.  3) Champions harness their energy and focus when it’s time to perform.  4) Champions love what they do.  5) Champions finish strong.  They never give up.

My thanks to Jill Koenig for today’s guest post.  You owe it to yourself to check out her site www.goalguru.com.  Please leave a comment letting us know what you think of Jill’s thoughts.  She and I value and appreciate your comments.  Thanks for reading – and writing.


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  1. Great post and a great shout out to Jill’s site.
    As I read the your common sense points and the things that Champions do well, I noticed one thing that you did not write but I think applies. Champions do not make excuses. They may not always receive the “Gold Medal” but they own what they have done. Anyone can make excuses when things don’t go their way, but Champions will not lower themselves to that.

  2. Steve:
    Great point — if you saw the men’s high bar competition last night, the guy from the US won the silver medal.
    As the camera was on him after he finished his routine, I heard him say, “That was the best I can do.” He didn’t make excuses for finishing second. Instead, he was happy that he did the best he could. He certainly “owned” his performance.
    Thanks so much for your thoughtful and insightful comment.
    All the best,

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