Countdown to the Olympics: How to be an Olympic-level entrepreneur #18

The Olympic Flag flying in Victoria, British C...
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In 18 days, the 2010 Winter Olympic athletes will compete to be the best in the world. Entrepreneurs compete for a similar pinnacle of success every single day. This series of blogs will countdown to the Olympics with 31 ideas about what it takes to achieve gold in your business.

To be an Olympic-level entrepreneur, you need to understand and embrace the extreme risk/reward relationship.

Just the other day I saw the story of a skier (it was on TV; I’m sorry that I can’t remember her name to reference here) who crashed during a practice and was concerned that she’d never compete again. She is competing in the Games as a sort-of comeback from nearly losing everything she had worked for. Many of the Olympic events have some element of danger to them (according to the official Vancouver Winter Olympics website, “speed skating is the fastest human powered, non-mechanical aided sport in the world” – crazy!).

If you think of the risk/reward relationship as being an oscillation between risk and reward, the distance of oscillation between risk and reward is much greater at the Olympic level than for other competitions. Olympic athletes risk so much… for a huge reward. They risk health, family, recreation, reputation, and even their lives — for months and years of preparation — for the rewards of being able to participate, the fame that comes with playing, the fame that comes with winning, the honor of representing their country, the financial/career-based opportunities that could arise from it.

Compare that oscillation of extreme risk and extreme reward to a weekend athlete who works at a regular job during the week: They risk little (an hour or two of their time and perhaps the potential for some bruises or a broken bone) and their reward is small (the honor of a neighborhood victory and a bit if time with friends). No one would accept Olympic-level risks for neighborhood-level rewards; and no one would ever expect neighborhood-level risks for Olympic-level rewards.

Olympic-level entrepreneurs understand this, too. They embrace the extreme oscillation between potential risk and potential reward. Too many entrepreneurs will never get far in their journey toward success because they can’t accept the potential risks that come with the potential rewards. Unfortunately, I see this all the time! They want the Olympic-level reward but only neighborhood-level risks: They want daily margaritas by a pool and a couple of Italian sports cars in the garage but they don’t want to quit their day-job and risk bankruptcy and long hours to get there.

If you want to accelerate your small business, you need to figure out what bigger risks you need to take and what bigger rewards are waiting if you succeed.

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