I haven't gotten the chance to watch much of the Olympics, but I did watch several of Michael Phelps’ swimming races. I also saw the "Jamaican Lightning Bolt" win both of his gold medals on Internet replays.
I love the Olympics because it is life condensed down into little snippets, with all the pain and glory rolled up into a neat little package. The Olympics remind me of the purity of competition, a living, breathing testimony to the importance of desire, dedication, commitment, work ethic, goals and planning. It’s also a case study on how to deal with and overcome adversity.
Certainly the international competition has its ugly moments, too. Already, a half-dozen athletes have been sent home in disgrace for rule-breaking, and we’ve witnessed how even success can be diminished with over-the-top celebrations and poor sportsmanship.
But it does point out that the victories that are the most meaningful are those for which you work the hardest and sacrifice the most. I'm always a little envious, but mostly in awe, of those athletes because of the total dedication toward a goal that they exhibit.
There are lessons in this competitive tableau that are applicable to management in the cattle industry.
One is to find the niche where you can excel. That Olympic shot put thrower probably wasn’t cut out for the sprints; and the court grace of basketball star LeBron James likely wouldn’t translate to the floor exercise in gymnastics.
It’s no different in the cattle industry; you must find the niche where your passion and talents intersect. This is doubly important because true success at anything likely means sacrifice, and you must enjoy the pursuit.
Second, you must be goal-oriented. One doesn’t end up in an Olympic finals without the goal of getting there and a plan to achieve that goal. These competitors also have mentors, coaches and teammates who hold them accountable, provide incentive and make sure they’re technically correct.
Third, the little things matter; execution matters. It’s fine to want to have the highest selling calves at the salebarn, but that begins at least 24 months prior to the calves reaching the market, with the proper genetics, management and nutritional programs. It means acquiring the tags; getting the animals identified, source- and age-verified; the proper vaccinations given; the contacts made; the right people identified and notified, etc. If any of those tasks are left undone, the entire goal is in jeopardy.
Regarding the Olympics, I'm always amazed that out of so many countries and so many athletes, when it comes down to the final competition, there are usually only a handful of people who are really medal contenders. Somewhere along the way, while still very talented, most of these other individuals left something undone.
How many of our management mistakes are made, not because we lacked information or skills, but because we simply didn't take the time to truly identify the end goal and what it would take to achieve it.
Regardless of what your goals are, do you have a plan in place to achieve them? Are you committed to it? And do you have the type of passion that could eventually put you on the medal stand?