A few days ago, Forbes published “How to Compete and Win in Business – Lessons from the World’s Greatest Athlete.”

I had to check it out…not because I’m interested in competing and winning in business, but because I’m inspired most by those who have achieved something extraordinary.

And who better to inspire than Bryan Clay, who won Olympic gold in 2008 in the decathlon, achieving the title “The World’s Greatest Athlete?”  If you are competing and you want greater success (even if your only competitor is yourself), here’s his advice (and mine):

1.  “It’s all about the process.” According to the article in Forbes, Bryan Clay’s focus is not in being excellent; his focus is in striving.  In other words, it’s not how well you do, it’s how hard you try to do well.

2.  “Execute.”  In other words, doing is more important than thinking about doing.  Baba Ram Dass said, “Be Here Now.”  Nike said, “Just do it.”  Same idea.  Anyone who’s ever overthought while horse training knows that feel is more important than whatever is going on in your mind.  You just have to ride and be present in the moment.

3.  You may expect to feel different after a big win, but don’t be surprised if you feel the same.  That’s what happened to Bryan Clay after winning in Beijing.  Winning won’t change your life.  It won’t change who you are.  And it won’t change your relationship with your horse (if it does, you have other problems).  With that in mind, it’s important to understand why you want to compete, and make sure it’s not because you’ll feel better about yourself if you win…or even worse, feel worse about yourself if you don’t.  Same goes for the way you feel about your horse when he wins or doesn’t.

4.  Be ready to say you did it “not for money or fame, but for the pure joy of doing what I was created to do.”  That’s the advice that Bryan Clay says he would give himself if he could go back in time.

It seems to me that this last piece of advice is the most significant.  The brightest blue ribbons pale beside pure joy.  Once we start setting competitive goals, it’s all too easy to forget why we wanted to ride in the first place, and sacrifice pleasure to progress.

We all want to be our best, whether we’re riding in our backyard or whether we want to test ourselves against a standard of excellence along with others. Regardless of how we compete — simply with ourselves or with ourselves and others — we can be inspired by Bryan Clay’s achievements, humility, wisdom and simple lessons for success.

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