It is always an extremely exciting time during the Olympic Games. Watching the stories unfold and the athletes achieve success after they have worked so hard for the last 4 years is engaging and fun!

There are many stories on leadership lessons from the Olympics that could be told. I could talk about the importance of teamwork, and how even in the individual sports it takes a full team of people to get an athlete to the medal podium. I could talk about the importance of vision, preparation, and focus to achieve great things. I could talk about how these athletes compete for something greater than themselves, their country. Those are just some examples of many options.

However I would like to focus on the stories that are yet to be told. I am curious to watch and see how these athletes handle their success and use their platform to make a positive impact in the future. Let’s focus on Michael Phelps.

Phelps is 27 years old and the most decorated Olympic athlete in history. He finished his Olympic career with 22 medals, 18 of them gold. I firmly believe a true sign of high performance is the never-ending desire to improve oneself and continue to add higher value every day in whatever platform you have been gifted with. In Phelp’s case when you have hit the pinnacle at such an early age, where do you go from here?

How will Michael Phelps use his platform as the most decorated Olympic athlete in history? In interviews he has talked about a number of things he sees in his future. He has mentioned rest and relaxation. He has mentioned traveling to see and fully experience the great cities of the entire world. And he has also mentioned leading the Michael Phelps Foundation that is focused on working with kids and encouraging them to become all that they can be.

I can certainly understand why he would want to initially get some rest and do some leisure traveling with how hard he has been working for the last few years training and competing. But I am most hopeful that he grasps the magnitude of his platform and uses his skills and drive to continue to make a positive impact with all those he interacts with through his Foundation. Time will tell.

This is a lesson for all of us as well. Our story of the future is yet to be told. We all have a platform and people that we interact with everyday. Are we relentless in our efforts to improve ourselves to get that much better at adding value to others with that platform? Or are we coasting through our careers waiting for retirement when we can coast out the rest of our life?

I am encouraged by many people that I work with on a daily basis that are working extremely hard at improving themselves on behalf of the people that they serve. I am also encouraged by many retirees that I see stepping up and volunteering to help wherever they can utilize their skills for the greater good of others. These people are not coasting by any means.

You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to make an impact. How will you be intentional about self-development and adding value to others for the rest of your life within your platform of influence?

Mark Deterding