6 Takeaways for Finance and Accounting from the 2018 Olympics
With the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in their final days, I find myself asking: What if finance was an Olympic sport? Would my team qualify, or bring home a medal? What would it take to compete and win at the Olympic level among the world’s best?
More than any innate talent, my conclusion is that the most important factor for Olympic success is having the aspirational goal to reach the podium.
With that overarching lesson in mind, here are six key takeaways finance and accounting can gain from the Olympics to achieve their best every day. By keeping the gold medal in sight, every repetitive task, challenge and incremental victory is a step towards success – and Olympic-level achievement.
1. An aspiration goal is a must-have
The Olympic medalist stands proudly on the pedestal, chin held high as their anthem plays and the hearts of fellow citizens near and far swell with pride. Each and every Olympian spends years working superhumanly hard on the small things, pushing themselves to their extreme limits, all because they aspire for this moment. Similarly, Olympic athletes in accounting and finance can only be as successful as their dreams allow them to be. Having an aspirational goal for world-class success is a requirement.
2. Hard, short-term work is always meaningful
Olympic athletes practice everyday, repeating the same movements until their muscles remember every move – each refined to the finest degree. Being able to tackle the mundane practice of performing hundreds and thousands of repetitions is only possible because it is a means toward their dream of winning a medal.
Similarly, having an aspiration goal provides Olympic finance and accounting athletes with the motivation they need to attack their role with the same drive. In this case, it’s not ski conditioning exercises, but performing month-end tasks with exact precision, balancing ledgers and striving for incremental improvements as they perfect their craft. In this way, each and every little task has immense meaning in contributing to the end goal.
3. To achieve gold, you need to push the limits
A never-ending race for speed, new strides, coaches and equipment. Olympic athletes continually push their limits and are seldom satisfied. Likewise, Olympic accounting and finance athletes push themselves beyond the GL, going beyond two-dimensional spreadsheets to combine data from multiple sources. The result is being able to explore the business at a more holistic and deeper level. These athletes are always striving for more to uncover, all in effort to reveal the story behind the numbers and what it means to business.
4. Pain lessens as you master your skill
A skate loses its edge and there is a slip, a fall, an injury. For most people, that would be the end. But an Olympic ice skater gets up and tries again. And again. Pain and discomfort do not impact an Olympian the same way it does ordinary people. Olympic accounting and finance athletes also go beyond their comfort-zones of numbers and spreadsheets, to break stereotypes around their role and become persuasive and a trusted business partners.
5. Work hard, and great things will happen
Most practical people would conclude their chances to reach the Olympic podium are so improbable that it’s not worth the pain and suffering to even try. Most accounting and finance people would agree. However, those with Olympic-level aspirational goals will be driven to do more, making them happier and more satisfied and positioned to achieve greatness as they struggle to reach the podium. In turn, their organization will benefit from their contributions.
6. Always remember the “most important thing”
Having an objective or dream is more valuable than actually accomplishing it. It is the undying desire to achieve something great that drives continual improvement and brings us closer to success. Indeed, the Olympic Creed encapsulates this, and also similarly highlights the most important reason why anyone would want to be an Olympic accounting or finance athlete:
“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”