Recast Yourself as a Career Athlete

Recast Yourself as a Career Athlete

I know we’re all suffering from Olympic metaphor fatigue, but honestly, the traits of Olympic athletes offer the best model there is for successful career self-management in today’s slugfest of an economy. The following excerpt from The Career Fitness Workbook (due out in September) explains what I mean.

The best way to find a new or better job and achieve lasting career success is to re-imagine yourself as a “career athlete.” You must see yourself as a new breed of worker-champion.

Such individuals are the workplace version of Olympians, at least Olympians as they were originally envisioned. They are amateurs only in the commercial sense of the term; in every other respect, they are dedicated professional athletes.

Olympians are defined by a number of special attributes:
They are independent. They decide where and when they will exercise their physical abilities and under what conditions. It might be running in a local marathon or playing in a tennis tournament, but they determine the content and duration of their activity.
They are passionate about their sport. They love the doing of it and are energized and fulfilled by that activity. It strengthens and conditions them, exhilarates and rewards them, and leaves them with a pervasive sense of physical and psychological well-being. Indeed, athletic endeavor can actually create a pleasurable physiological response—what is sometimes called a “runner’s high”—that replenishes the spirit as well as the body.
Their goal is to be the best they can be in their chosen sport. An athlete continuously strives to excel and then extend the limits of their performance. There is no end to their effort because they believe there is no limit to what they can achieve.
They can be anyone. Athletics are a democratic activity. All of us have a body, so all of us have the inherent ability to engage in and enjoy physical activity. Sure, some of us will perform better than others, but all of us can be athletes, and all of us can reach for and attain the peaks of our own personal excellence.

The most successful working men and women are also athletes; they are “career athletes.” Whether they are looking for a new job or for more success in the job they have, their attributes are identical to those who are engaged in sports:
They are independent. Career athletes decide where and when they will work and under what conditions. It might be for one employer rather than another or as an independent contractor, but they determine the content and duration of their activity.
They are passionate about their field of work. They love the doing of it and are energized and fulfilled by it. It strengthens and conditions their self-expression, exhilarates and rewards their personal growth, and leaves them with a pervasive sense of mental and emotional well-being. Indeed, a career athlete’s work can actually create a pleasurable physiological response—what is sometimes called “flow”—that replenishes the spirit as well as the body.
Their goal is to be the best they can be in their profession, craft or trade. A career athlete continuously strives to excel and then extend the limits of their performance. There is no end to their effort because they believe there is no limit to what they can achieve.
They can be anyone. Career development is a democratic activity. All of us have a mind, so all of us have the inherent ability to engage in and enjoy the work we do with it. Sure, some of us will perform better than others, but all of us can be career athletes, and all of us can reach for and attain the peaks of our own personal excellence.

But here’s the rub: you can’t become a successful career athlete simply stating your intention to do so. You also can’t rely on serendipity or depend on fate or good fortune, and you cannot look to others—your employer, your boss, your mentor, your teacher or your parents—to make it happen. You won’t transform yourself into a career athlete by wishful thinking or by being loyal and dependable and showing up for work every day.

There is only one sure way to establish yourself as a genuine career athlete, and that’s to lean the principles and practice the habits of Career Fitness.

I’ll talk more about that concept in my next blog post.

Work Strong,
Peter

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