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Financial lessons from Olympics


by Mr. T
Columns

 

 

The Olympics are a special event, held only once every four years and brings together some of the top athletes from every country to do amazing feats.
I watched some of the games last week and was struck by the grace and mastery those athletes have over their game. I’ve never been particularly interested in sports like swimming and gymnastics but it was incredible to watch men and women compete at that level. It often seemed as if they did things that should be impossible for regular humans to accomplish.
Perhaps more amazing than those athletes’ performances are the years and years - often decades - they  train to get to that level. Throughout those trainings, the athletes face failures and trials of all kinds. It takes incredible fortitude, discipline and drive to compete at the Olympics level.
Sometimes more interesting than the events themselves are the athletes’ stories.
One story that struck me was that of the American gymnast, John Orozco’s. They say John is probably the most unlikely of gymnasts, having grown up relatively poor in the Bronx. As a young boy, John started training at a gym in the Bronx after his father saw a flyer in the community for free lessons. It soon became clear that John was a special athlete and his parents arranged to have him train at a professional gym nearly an hour away. Each morning, from the age of nine, John’s mother would drive him to the gym where he’d train for four hours a day, up to six days a week.
In the Bronx, there weren’t too many boys who did gymnastics and John put up with a lot of ridicule from kids in school who didn’t understand his dream. To make matters worse, he was short, barely 14cm tall. Often, the neighbourhood kids taunted him, called him ‘the boy who runs around in tights’. In his teen years, John won three national championships in a row, then the unthinkable happened; he tore his Achilles’ tendon in a dismount in 2010 while preparing for the Olympics. The recovery took many months of long, hard training, both physically and mentally. Even today, the tendon is still sore and he can feel it whenever he lands on the mats.
Many athletes would let an injury like that disqualify them. John, instead, used it as an opportunity to vastly improve his worst event - the pommel horse - now considered as one of his best. After nearly a decade of training for hours a day, John is now a big part of the U.S.’s hopes for gold this year.
While many of us will never compete like John as an Olympics athlete, I believe that we all share his story in some way; everybody has a dream they would like to accomplish and most dreams take a lot of hard work, commitment and training. Many a times, people in your life will ridicule your dream and try to pull you down from accomplishing it. You may also face setbacks along the way and failures that could make you want to quit.
Unfortunately, many people quit long before they reach their dream.
They start thinking that it’s too hard and too much work. They believe the lies people tell them, or care more about what others think, rather than what they want to accomplish in life.
I have heard some of the greatest words of encouragement from a Dr Tom and a Dr Moloi amongst others who have told me, ‘Don’t worry about anyone in life, focus on what you want to achieve. A person can laugh you up to debt if you want to please them but after you achieve what they want, you will never get satisfaction and they will laugh at you again when you are in trouble’.
I’ve found this to be especially true when it comes to financial freedom. Many people want to be rich but they don’t want to put in the required work. This is why get-rich-quick schemes are so popular; they offer fool’s gold.
The reality is that getting rich takes time, commitment and perseverance. There will be many setbacks. You will fail. People will speak negatively into your life. You will have to train in the form of financial education for many years to understand how money and business work. You will need to start slow and build your financial strength. You will need a financial coach.
I was amazed when the Dr Tom challenged me for a CFA. Thus the desire for financial education and freedom. The good news - for you - is that most people in life quit. So, staying in the game is half the battle and puts you a couple of years ahead of others.
I encourage you to stick to your dreams. If you’ve slacked off, double-down on your financial education. If you’re holding off from investing or starting your own business because of fear, walk into that fear... Whatever you do, don’t quit. John Orozco let his Achilles’ heel become his greatest strength. What are you going to do?