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Financial Lessons From An Olympic Athlete

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What a gymnast can teach you about money and getting rich

This week marked the kick off of the 30th Summer Olympics, which are hosted in London this year. The Olympics are a special event, held only once every four years, bringing together some of the top athletes from every country to do amazing feats.

I’ve watched some of the games this week, and I’m struck by the grace and mastery these athletes have over their game. I’ve never been particularly interested in sports like swimming and gymnastics, but it is incredible to watch men and women compete at this level. It often seems as if they’re doing things that should be impossible for a human to accomplish.

Perhaps more amazing than these athletes’ performances are the years and years—often decades—they’ve trained to get to this level. Throughout this training, these athletes faced failures and trials of all kinds. It takes incredible fortitude, discipline and drive to compete at the Olympic level.

Sometimes more interesting than the events themselves are the athletes’ stories.

One story that struck me was that of U.S. gymnast, John Orozco.

John is probably the most unlikely of gymnasts, having grown up relatively poor in the Bronx. As a young boy, John started training at a gym in the Bronx after his father saw a flyer in the community for free lessons. It soon became clear that John was a special athlete and his parents arranged to have him train at a professional gym nearly an hour away. Each morning, from the age of nine, John’s mother would drive him to the gym where he’d train for four hours a day up to six days a week.

In the Bronx, there weren’t too many boys who did gymnastics, and John put up with a lot of ridicule from kids in school who didn’t understand his dream. To make matters worse, he was short, barely reaching 5’5”. Often, the neighborhood kids taunted John, calling him the boy who ran around in tights. Yet, John persevered and continued his training despite the pressure to quit from his peers and the barrage of negativity that came his way.

In his teen years, John won three national championships in a row, and then the unthinkable happened—he tore his Achilles’ tendon in a dismount in 2010. The injury came as he was preparing for the Olympics, and the recovery took many months of long, hard training, both physically and mentally. Even today, the tendon is still sore and he can feel it when he lands on the mats.

Many athletes would let an injury like that disqualify them. John instead used it as an opportunity to vastly improve his worst event, the pommel horse, now considered one of his best. After nearly a decade of training for hours a day, John is considered probably the best all around gymnast in the United States. He’s a big part of the U.S.’s hopes for gold this year.

While many of us will never compete like John as an Olympic athlete in front of the world, I believe that we all share his story in some way. Everybody has a dream that they want to accomplish, and most dreams take a lot of hard work, commitment and training. Many times people in your life ridicule your dream and try to pull you down from accomplishing it. You may also face setbacks along the way and failures that can cause you to want to quit.

Unfortunately, many people quit long before they reach their dream.

They think that it’s too hard and too much work. They believe the lies people tell them, or care more about what others think, rather than what they want to accomplish in life. When faced with failure, they get depressed and quit.

Financial Education is Not a Get-Rich-Quick Scheme

I’ve found this to be especially true when it comes to financial freedom. Many people want to be rich, but they don’t want to put in the work required. This is why get-rich-quick schemes are so popular. They offer fool’s gold.

The reality is that getting rich takes time, commitment and perseverance. There will be many setbacks. You will fail. People will speak negatively into your life. You will have to train in the form of financial education for many years to understand how money and business works. You will need to start slow and build your financial strength. You will need a financial coach.

The good news—for you—is that most people in life quit. So, staying in the game is half the battle and puts you light years ahead of others.

Today, I encourage you to stick to your dreams. If you’ve slacked off, double-down on your financial education.

If you’re holding off from investing or starting your own business because of fear, walk into that fear. If you need a coach to take you to the next level, find one. Whatever you do, don’t quit.

John Orozco let his Achilles’ heel become his greatest strength. What are you going to do?

To help you get the support you need, check out our free, financial education community here.

Original publish date: July 31, 2012

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