8. Olympian (From The Intense Competitor Family)
Of all the abilities I don’t possess, this is the one I wish I had. It’s the glorious ability to tenaciously take on challenges, overcome formidable obstacles and emerge victorious. You’re fortunate to have an Olympian in your life to help you negotiate a deal, keep a difficult project going, or serve as your advocate. It’s great to have someone in your corner, fighting on your behalf.
I met Leanne years ago. She was in the back of the room at a Seattle seminar with her leg in a cast, propped up on a chair. A single mother of three, barely making it, with no support from her ex-husband, she’d been in an accident that left her with a broken collarbone, broken leg and broken finances. After the seminar, she refocused her energies and fought back, using her Olympian ability with impressive tenacity and determination. She was able to stabilize her finances and her family. Her kids are thriving, and she is now successful. In fact, she has everything she needs to realize her dream: taking on the breath-taking challenge to sell her successful practice and relocate to Maui. Leanne’s Olympian tenacity made it all possible. By her accomplishments, she has inspired her family and many others.
Members of the Intense Competitor family have an intense desire to prevail in life, whether it means winning at all costs or overcoming the obstacles that life presents. Olympians feed off multiple challenges. They realize their significance and gain momentum when they are engaged and stimulated by a variety of personal and professional challenges. If they have only one plate spinning, they tend to procrastinate. They’re at their best when attacked, tickled, or intrigued by many things at the same time. Moving to meet those simultaneous challenges is their reward. They’re stimulated by having half a dozen plates spinning at the same time. You might say that the diversity of movement moves them. Even in play, they must have the adrenaline surge associated with competitive drive, whether competing with themselves, with others, or with their history.
These multiple challenges need to be homogeneous. What happens to the plate-spinner who has six plates in the air, juggles bowling balls with the feet, and does calligraphy with a pen in the mouth…all at the same time? These are all challenges, but not homogeneous. It’s virtually impossible to keep them up. The different demands cause a breakdown of concentration and coordination. When Olympians have too many challenges or dissimilar challenges, it causes breakdown. They are designed to handle half-a-dozen plates.
I tell Olympians that, because they need multiple challenges, they can get over-opportunized very quickly. They may extend themselves until they’re a mile wide and an inch deep. Significance comes only come from thoughtful pursuit, not from reactive, knee-jerk response. The filter question Olympians have to ask themselves is, “Do I have the time, resources and energy to take on this additional challenge?”
If you are an Olympian, consider this: Take a pen and draw a circle. Make that circle a pie. Cut the pie into slices of significance in your life. Your relationship with your spouse is a slice; your relationship with your children, your work, your philanthropic interest or hobbies are each slices. Let’s say your job represents 40 percent of your significance, and the other 60 percent comes from various other areas of your life. Now say you had a bad month in business. That’s a minus and draining, but because you’ve gained significance from other areas of your life, the positives help you through the down times. And they help you when you are not overcoming a challenge.
There is an inherent pride within this ability. It says, “I can do it. I’ll be tenacious. I’ll be determined. I won’t take NO for an answer. I’ll push myself. I’ll push others.” Conversely, there is also a smugness saying, “I can’t be told No. I won’t be told No. I will take on another challenge without removing anything else.” As a result, people with this ability become overwhelmed; their resources are diluted, and a mechanism for failure is set up.
Boredom is another mechanism for failure. It occurs when the Competitive attribute is not engaged in the fun of competing. Olympians become bored easily, so they need boredom busters in their world. Golf is a great game for them because they’re always competing against themselves and they’ll never master the game. It’s like a chew toy for a pet. It allows the Olympian attribute to engage and to gnaw at something without gnawing at themselves, their world or their relationships. Through golf, they are able to use their tenacious ability in an appropriate manner. The attribute always needs to be engaged: it’s just a matter of how you choose to engage it.
This characteristic can be dangerous to their own growth and success because Olympians love to start things over from scratch. People with this attribute tend to continually re-invent themselves, their environment and relationships. They keep hitting their heads on the midway point of success and significance, fully aware that there is a higher level, and they start all over again. In effect, they unwittingly sabotage themselves so as not to be bored. They love the adrenaline surge of starting over. But they cannot have a stabilized, balanced environment with success and significance if they themselves constantly ruin or revamp their world. The constant changes of direction and the over-opportunization cause burnout.
Some Olympians sell very different types of products, all at the same time, because it is easy for them to start new endeavors from scratch. Or they may pursue multiple career paths. By doing this, they’re not really creating the vocation or lifestyle they’re looking for. In a way, they are demonstrating perseverance through tenacity and determination. Well, that’s wonderful, but it’s not good for them. They are only evidencing their reactive muscle memory when they keep starting over from scratch. “Let me change careers. Let me go in a new direction. Let me try this and that.” The older they get, the more frustrated they become with themselves. They know there’s more they could be doing and more available resources they’re not using when they keep starting over. Some only get to Level 5 in their lives instead of Level 10.
Olympians are obsessive, and they strive to reach the highest level. If an area of their lives is not going well, they need to put it in maintenance mode and transfer their focus to another area. A positive example of this attribute is Mohammed Ali. He has overcome the greatest challenges of life, professional and personal, including Parkinson’s disease, to be an exemplar and goodwill ambassador around the world.