Would you leave everything behind and trek 1,000 miles to an unfamiliar place and dedicate the next two years of your life to the pursuit of your passion?
One young Olympic hopeful did.
Was it worth it? Just ask sixteen year-old Gabrielle (Gabby) Douglas.
Fast forward two years later to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, and Douglas has made history. "Douglas led from the start and never gave up the lead," according to TIME Magazine's Alice Park.
"The young Olympic gold medalist with the U.S. women's gymnastics team earned the all-around title as well, becoming the first African American to do so and the first U.S. gymnast to claim both the team and all-around gold medals in a single Games."
What can small business owners learn from the young Olympian's journey to gold? Here are three lessons that every entrepreneur can medal in!
1. Develop mental toughness.
Douglas' coach, Liang Chow, in retrospect, acknowledged that "many people worried about (Gabrielle's) mental toughness ... But (today) she demonstrated that she can handle it, that she can handle the toughest job."
Is mental toughness important for success? Veteran startup mentor Marty Zwilling believes so, "In sports, mental toughness is defined as the ability to focus on and execute solutions, especially in the face of adversity," says Zwilling. In business you must "Prepare mentally every day ... Complete a mental workout every day to dramatically improve your focus and ability to execute consistently."
2. Turn skeptics into believers.
"Physically, yes, she was prepared. We all knew that," says Martha Karolyi, the U.S. national team coordinator. "But lots of people had a question mark ... She had such a great improvement, it's incredible in such a short time. I haven't seen any gymnast go from an average good gymnast five months ago to climb up to be the best in the world. That's the truth."
The same skepticism is often felt by breakout entrepreneurs.
While some may admire your natural talent or skills, they may not believe that you have what it takes to go from good to great at mach speed. It's evident, even at Olympic competitive levels, that people will doubt your resolve. But never let another person's doubt become the judge and jury of your future success.
Instead, embrace skeptics and turn them into believers by taking "what's simple, impossible and insane and make it tangible."
3. Seek out proven mentorship.
While there's much to be said for Gabrielle Douglas' raw ability, we'd be remiss to not consider the proven leadership behind the young Olympic champion -- coach Liang Chow.
Chow, a former gymnast and the personal coach of the 2008 Olympic gold medalist, Shawn Johnson, is no stranger to developing world-class champions. With two back-to-back Olympians now under his belt, there's no question that he has what it takes to turn raw talent into breakout success. And entrepreneurs should look for those same characteristics when choosing a business coach or mentor.
As entrepreneurs look for a mentor to help them navigate building a successful company, it's important to seek out individuals with proven expertise, credibility and most importantly results.
A small business advisor (coach) should be able to share how he or she has specifically helped to develop other young business leaders. Mentorship is an investment of time and energy - and it's important for world-class entrepreneurs to ensure the relationship is mutually beneficial - not just "lip service."
When Douglas was asked what has been her secret - what does she attribute to her increased confidence? She noted it has been Chow's coaching. However, Liang Chow responded, "There's no such secret -- (only) hard work."
What other lessons can entrepreneurs learn from Olympic gold medalist Gabrielle Douglas? Let me know in the comments below.