If there’s one group of people who have the power to motivate just about anyone, it’s the Olympic gold medalists we’ve watched compete over the past two weeks. From Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt to Gabby Douglas, they’ve proven they have what it takes to get the gold when the pressure is on.
We rounded up six of the best quotes. Yeah, we know, they’re not about money, but that doesn’t mean they don’t apply to your journey. After all, the same principles that help them slay on the track or in the pool—hard work, sacrifice, tenacity and determination—can make you a winner when it comes to hitting your financial goals.
—Michael Phelps, American Olympic gold medalist in swimming and—oh, yeah—the most decorated gold medalist in Olympic history
People are always going to put limits on what they think you can do: There’ll be doubters who say you’ll never get that business off the ground, that you shouldn’t go for that big promotion, that saving $1 million—or paying off that credit-card debt this year—is impossible.
Don’t believe them. “Putting limits on your thinking can be a way of avoiding change or the challenge that comes with work,” says Maggie Baker, PhD, a financial therapist and author of “Crazy About Money.” “As Phelps knows, the more you challenge yourself, the more you can change the status quo—and that applies to money as much as it applies to anything else.”
2. “Dreams are free. Goals have a cost…time, effort, sacrifice and sweat. How will you pay for your goals?”
— Usain Bolt, Jamaican Olympic gold medalist in sprinting and the fastest man ever recorded
Fact: To reach your financial goals—whatever they are—you have to sacrifice something. If you’re paying off debt or saving money, you may have to cut out cable, dinners out, or even trade in your car. If you’re building a business, you’re sacrificing the security of a full-time company position and the benefits that come with that.
Sure, these tradeoffs may be uncomfortable in the short-run, but nobody said it’d be easy to go after what you want. If your sacrifices are inching you closer to your ultimate goal, it’ll be worth it in the end.
—Simone Biles, American Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics
When Biles uttered these words, it was a criticism of how the media has been portraying her success—that she’s not, as a story in The Atlantic puts it, just “the lady version of a guy.” But you can still take this idea to heart when it comes to achieving your own version of greatness.
Truly successful people don’t try to be those who came before them (although emulating their habits isn’t a bad idea). I’m pretty sure Bill Gates didn’t set out to be the next Warren Buffett. Rather, he zeroed in and developed his own unique strengths. Leveraging and developing your own personal skills and strengths can help you attract clients or the job offers, raises and promotions you want—and, ultimately, success.
4. “Hard days are the best because that’s when champions are made. If you push through the hard days, then you can get through anything.”
—Gabby Douglas, American Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics
Whether it’s a big setback, like losing your job, or a smaller one, like a major car repair when you’re trying to save, there’s no doubt about it: hard days suck. But with a little perspective, weathering tough times can be a good thing, too, because it brings into sharp focus your priorities—what you want to accomplish or protect—and prepares you to hurdle the next obstacle.
“If it’s a financial mistake, your first step is to get back on track,” says Baker. “It’s just a mistake, not a personal failure. Ask yourself what you would do differently next time in a similar situation, using what you’ve learned as guidance.”
5. “What I can do is control the controllables, and stay as disciplined as I can be and focused on goals and life.”
—Wayde van Niekerk, South African Olympic gold medalist in sprinting
There are always going to be variables that you can’t control when it comes to your money—how the market or economy is doing, whether your car will need a repair or whether a competitor opens shop next door to your business. You do yourself no favors by trying to bring the chaos under your control.
That said, there’s plenty you do control. You can diversify your investments, so that your whole portfolio doesn’t tank when one sector is down. You can fund an emergencies-only account to cover the fixes to your car. And you can commit to treating your customers to the best possible service, so they choose you over your competitor.
Sure, prepare for the worst case—but don’t try to control things you can’t.
6. “Luck has nothing to do with it…I have spent many, many hours—countless hours—on the court working for my one moment in time, not knowing when it would come.”
—Serena Williams, American Olympic gold medalist in tennis
It’s easy to chalk up others’ success—in business, their bank accounts or with the markets—to good fortune. When it happens to someone else, we want to believe it’s because they’re lucky.
But, of course, the truth is that winning requires a lot of hard work and dedication. Your coworker who scored the promotion you were gunning for probably wasn’t just lucky or kissing up. If he was smart and serious about that promotion, he likely figured out what skills and wins he’d need to get promoted, tracked his achievements, and quantified his successes. And your brother didn’t just wake up with a fat savings account balance—he made smart choices over and over again.
The bottom line is kind of a no-brainer, but it’s a good reminder, too. There are no shortcuts. If you want success—financial, professional, athletic—you’ve got to be willing to work for it.