Michael Phelps Amazing Rio Olympics And How He Changed The Way I Sell


Saturday night if you didn’t tune into the Olympics then you missed it. Michael Phelps lead the U.S. to stunning victory in the 4x100 Relay, winning a record breaking 23rd Gold Medal. It was sweet because the US had never lost this race but I think it was sweeter because of the journey Michael Phelps has taken to be at the top, then the bottom, and now back to the top.

In his younger years, Phelps struggled in school and was diagnosed with ADHD(1). In 2004 Phelps was caught driving impaired after the Athens Olympics(2). In 2009 a British newspaper obtained a copy of a picture that showed Phelps holding a bong and it appeared he was smoking marijuana(3). In 2014 he was charged with a DUI for going 84 mph in a 45-mph zone(4).

Throughout it all, Phelps has experienced many challenges. In 2009, Kellogg dropped their sponsorship and sent Phelps this memo: “We decided to send a strong message to Michael because he disappointed so many people, particularly the hundreds of thousands of USA Swimming member kids who look up to him as a role model and hero.”

After his 2014 arrest. Phelps told Sports Illustrated “I was in a really dark place, not wanting to be alive anymore.” It was this arrest that led Phelps to rehab and eventually helped him get his life back together.

On Saturday night he stood on the podium for the last time. Preparing to receive his 28th Olympic medal spanning five Olympic games.

The guy just wouldn’t give up. He gets knocked down and finds a way to reemerge somehow stronger. If you can’t learn a lesson from Michael Phelps, you’re a fool. The guy is a fighter. Yeah, life can be hard and so can sales. You get rejected. You don’t hit quota. You get fired. You have some dark moments and you question your confidence. It’s all part of the game we call life. But take a page from the Michael Phelps’ book and realize there is light at the end of the tunnel, if you can just pull yourself out of it one step at a time.

As I look at Michael Phelps’s journey, three things jump out as keys to his road to recovery:

1) You Can’t Go At It Alone

Admit your not strong enough and get help. When Michael Phelps checked himself into rehab it was the beginning of the turnaround. According to Sports Illustrated, about five days into his stay, Phelps said, he began to loosen his resistance. He started to view his rehab as a competition. “I thought, O.K., I’m going to go with this. I’m here for 45 days, let’s see what I can get out of it.”

In sales, if you’re losing admit it and take a good look in the mirror and ask someone for help. You can’t win alone. It’s a fact of life.

2) Have a “Go To”

The New York Times mentions in its article about Phelps’ turnaround that in rehab, he started reading books and it has become a habit. The article says, “One day, he casually mentioned to Bowman (his coach) that he was reading “Man’s Search for Meaning,” by Viktor E. Frankl, a Holocaust survivor who became a psychiatrist. Bowman was shocked. He said he had seen Phelps read only magazines. As the trials drew near, Phelps ordered “The Power of Your Subconscious Mind,” by Joseph Murphy, and “The Purpose Driven Life,” by Rick Warren”.

What’s your ‘Go To’? When things get tough or the chips are not falling into place and you can feel yourself going to that dark place, what do you do? Where do you go? You have to have a thing or a place to help you get back to your ‘happy place.’ One of my ‘things’ is my guitar. I’m not any good but an hour in the basement acting like I know how to play and singing Garth Brooks at the top of my lungs, calms me down and clears my head.

3) Take Baby Steps

In rehab, Phelps didn’t try to conquer the world. He took baby steps and did what he could as he began to change his life. In the Sports Illustrated article it says, “Phelps began rising at six each morning to lift weights, do push-ups and crunches, and swim in the tiny pool. “I could take about one stroke and then I was at the other side,” he says.”

I love that quote about the tiny pool. He didn’t find a way to wake up and go swim across a lake. He accomplished what he had in front of him took one step at a time and he remerged as a champion. Sometimes when we fall, we try to jump back up and climb the whole mountain but we forget that greatness starts with a single step.

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