Don’t Poke the Bear

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Most of the world has been transfixed on the Rio Olympics and chances are you didn’t miss the epic stare down from Michael Phelps to South African swimmer Chad le Clos as they prepared for the 200m butterfly semifinals this past week.

Le Clos, trying to do anything to get into Phelps’ head prior to the race, was shadowboxing right in front of Phelps as Michael sat with an emotionless stare. Or perhaps it was full of “I’m going to kick your ass in front of the world” daggers.


Photo credit: NBC

imagesIn that semifinal heat, Phelps ended up second with both swimmers moving on to the finals, setting up the classic showdown the very next night.

The results of that final? Phelps took gold. And Le Clos? Well, he finished a distant fifth. Yet all through finals, Le Clos kept a close eye on where Phelps was the entire race. Phelps concentrated on the finish line, and winning.

Le Clos, trying to psyche out his opponent, ended up psyching out himself, getting into his own head, defeating himself before he entered the pool.

One of the more classic memes showed both swimmers, with Phelps in the lead and Le Clos, second at the time, looking over to see how he stacked up to swimming’s GOAT, the best ever.


The lesson? Winners focus on winning and losers focus on winners.

In business, we’d all be better served if we concentrated on what makes us great as individuals than worrying about what everyone else—or our competitors—are doing. Focus on your core strengths and be confident that you will succeed, and you’ll go a long way.

Sure, it’s important to be apprised of what your competitors are doing, but I guarantee that you’ll feel more satisfied knowing that you succeeded based on your own merits rather than worrying about others or even trying to disparage them.

Whatever you do, just don’t poke the bear.


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