What I’ve Learned About Money While Watching the Olympics

I don’t know about you all, but I’ve been glued to the TV for the last two weeks watching the Winter Olympics.  I’ve become especially, inexplicably obsessed with curling, at least until next month when I forget it exists again.  Maybe it’s because for the most part, these athletes aren’t professionals like we tend to think of them.  Or maybe it’s because there’s no “team” to root for, leaving us just in awe of people who have practiced for years to be the best at something they love.  Whatever it is, the Olympics draw in audiences all over the world, many of whom don’t care about organized sports any other day.

I’ve loved watching all of these amazing athletes, from Shaun White winning his 75th gold medal in everything with snow in it to Yun Sungbin coming out of nowhere and completely dominating my new favorite sport of skeleton racing.  But while I’ve been watching, I’ve also been learning.  They all seem to follow more or less the same pattern for success, and the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized it’s the same pattern that every successful person follows.  I don’t know that I have it completely figured out, but here are four things I’ve picked up on over the last two weeks.

Train With a Coach

When you’re just starting out, no matter what you’re doing, you’re not going to be very good.  Lucky for you, we all live in a time where someone else out there has succeeded in what we’re trying to do.  For athletes, they look to others in their sport for advice, guidance, and even ongoing training.  For money issues, we have books.  So, so many books.  And we have newspapers.  And we have blogs.  And we have YouTube.  No matter what questions you have about money, don’t try to figure it out all by yourself!  Seek out a coach in some form to help guide you through all the pitfalls of personal finance.

Surround Yourself With Winners, Ignore the Naysayers

We’re social creatures.  Whoever we tend to hang around really influences what we end up doing ourselves.  In order to succeed at something, it’s important to be around other people who are doing what you want to do, and avoid or ignore the people telling you it can’t be done.  Sometimes, constructive criticism is a good thing, but for every one person telling you you’re doing the right thing with your money, you’ll come across ten more that mock you, or tell you to do “this” instead.  Stay focused on the prize, and surround yourself with people who have already won it for themselves and will cheer you on the path.

Don’t Give Up After Failure

We’re all going to make mistakes.  I hope that’s not a surprise.  But what do you think would have happened if Shaun White sold his snowboard the first time he wiped out on the halfpipe?  You have to be able to look at yourself critically, but almost impersonally, if you’re going to push through to success.  Figure out what caused you to make the mistakes you made, and course correct for the future.

Do One (or a few) Thing Really Well, Rather Than All The Things Poorly

Humans as a species are terrible multitaskers.  Short-term, sure, but especially over the long term.  You can’t be a country-unifying politician AND a business mogul AND a Nobel Prize-winning researcher AND an Olympic athlete.  You just can’t.  Unless you’re Elon Musk, who I’m beginning to suspect isn’t even a real human anyway.  All of those things take time, and we’ve only got a little bit of it here on Earth.  The people I’ve been watching have chosen to invest most of theirs into ice skating, or curling, or snowboarding, and they’ve put a TON of time into doing that one thing.  That’s why they’re in South Korea right now and I’m on my couch watching them.  But except for the oily guy from Tonga, they all do that one thing, and that’s it.  They don’t try to be the best at all the things, and neither should you.  Pick a handful of goals that you want to accomplish over your lifetime, and then chase them!  Most of us are never going to be able to travel every Thursday, become regulars at every three-star restaurant in the world, own a house on every continent, and still retire with the GDP of Europe in our account.  We’ve got to pick, like, half of one of those.  But once you choose what’s important to you, go for it!

What about you?  Have you been watching the Olympics this year?  What’s your personal finance gold medal?

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