In business a lot of people can be touchy about criticism. In sports, athletes depend on it: if you want to improve your swing, your throw, or your attitude, you better be open to coaching.
The Olympics is the ultimate example, with the top athletes closely advised, cajoled and encouraged. Entrepreneurs also can learn from some good coaching, and in fact there are great lessons from recent Olympic champions, also-rans and even the DNFs (Did Not Finish).
Perfect your performance like Usain Bolt. To perfect can mean to take something to a flawless state, but I think there is a far better way to use this word for company founders: the continual process of expanding and developing skills and bettering results. Try this sentence: “She worked to perfect her startup over the course of five years and achieved $10 million revenue.” Is she done at $10 million? Of course not. Any entrepreneur worth her salt will now set a new goal. Sharpening our act – that’s something we can all do. Usain Bolt ran faster in his second Olympics, and I suspect he’s already setting even more ambitious goals for the future.
Make a comeback like Gabby Douglas. It was doubtful that Gabby Douglas would even make the US Olympic team, let alone win an individual Gold medal. Forbes contributor David DiSalvo wrote in The 10 Reasons Why We Fail that one of the reasons for failure is accepting one’s (low) station in life. But how does that explain Oscar Pistorius? How could you watch his 400 meter race and not be inspired? Comebacks are what make legends, so if you’re behind the curve right now in your business, just imagine how much more glorious it will be when you succeed.
Be remembered by your grace under pressure, just like Liu Xiang. He failed to clear the first hurdle in his race, crashed to the ground and was disqualified. He limped off, but then returned to kiss the hurdle. Competitors then helped him exit, because they knew a champion was in their midst. For Liu, the hurdle, the event, the training and the crowd were all sacred. Contrast this with an American runner, who was tripped up, fell, and immediately began to pound the track with her hands. She was not hurt, but she didn’t finish the race.
Especially with startups, none of us hits a home run every time, so the question is what to do when you crash. Anyone can look good when they win. It was fun to watch the pole vaulters – thrilling to see someone leap up to an impossible height and clear the bar. But when they failed to clear the bar, you saw them get up off the mat and applaud the crowd. It was their way to say: thank you for the opportunity to be here, and just so you know, I’m coming back, even better than before.
**Robert Jordan is a Forbes.com contributor. View the original posting of this article on Forbes.com.