Olympic Athlete = Entrepreneur?
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Over the next two weeks, we will watch in awe as Olympic athletes perform amazing feats that we mere mortals only dream about. Some of those athletes will go on to accomplish great things not on the field or in an arena, but, rather, in the marketplace.
A number of Olympians have gone on to become entrepreneurs, and it is not difficult to understand why. Like entrepreneurs, Olympic competitors are dreamers and risk-takers. They are focused, driven, resilient and determined. They don’t let failure get in their way of their goals.
“[Growing up] I was cut from nearly every team I tried out for… I had no hand-eye coordination … My athletic career was littered with failure, and I really learned not to be dissuaded by it and to concentrate, which has helped in business."
Mazzio joined the rowing team as a college freshman. Her knack for the sport, coupled with a one-of-a-kind persistence and refusal to let failure deter her from accomplishing her goals, propelled her to the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, where she placed 11th in the doubles race at 30 years old.
After the Olympics, Mazzio ditched her successful career as a lawyer to chase her dream of owning her own film production company. She founded 50 Eggs, which has produced several award-winning films, most of which are documentaries on social issues:
"I was a lawyer working at a fabulous law firm before I went to the Olympics, but when I came back it took me a while to adjust back to my life. I realized that it was time for me to make a decision. I could continue living a fabulously yuppified life or quit and do something that would give back to the community as a whole. I was interested in film and politics. I choose film."
Jair Lynch, silver medalist gymnast in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, tells a similar story. Vicky Hallet of the Washington Post writes:
Now the Shaw [Washington, D.C.] resident is focused on another kind of maneuver: invigorating neighborhoods in the District. Jair Lynch Development Partners, which he founded in 1998, has so far created 1.65 million square feet worth of schools, housing, commercial buildings and recreation centers.
Lynch still sees the direct impact of his Olympic past on his present career, especially when he thinks about setting goals, dealing with short-term and long-term issues and differentiating himself from the pack. “When I was competing, the only way to get a 10.0 was through bonus points for risk, originality, and virtuosity,” he says. “Those traits translate into the work I do.”
"There’s a common thread between all athletes in terms of grit,” Lynch says. “It gives me goosebumps to see them perform and really persevere.”
And it gives him the motivation to do the same… in Washington.
Lynch and Mazzio aren’t alone in their post-Olympic business ventures. Read this Huffington Post article documenting ten more Olympic athletes who have also gone on to start successful businesses.