What to share with young people

The original text can be found on the Elite Level Business Lessons from an Olympic-Level Athlete blog post on TheNetworkTeam.co. The contents were part of a 30-minute presentation I made to the Union County Young Professionals group at a recent event.

The author is Jessica Diehl  (@JessicaDiehlCLT on Twitter).


“30 seconds into my first World Championship, I was in last place.  All that was behind me was a motorcycle, with a camera, rolling.

My first thoughts were all correct ones, based on evidence.

  1. You are in last place.
  2. You have an injured right foot that you have not run this far on literally, this year.
  3. You could make things worse if you continue.”

Along with vision setting and managing The Network Team as its president, Jeff Gaura competes internationally in the  sport of Duathlon. (That is a race comprised of cycling and running components.)

The realization that he was in last place led to an onslaught of fears including asking himself, ‘Aren’t there better uses of your time right now, rather than taking this risk?’

Risk, reward and success were some of the business lessons of a talk Jeff gave to the inaugural lunch for the Young Professionals of Union County.

Gaura wove together stories of his training for the World Championship with lessons on what it takes to run and grow a successful business.

Good Relationships

He started where most of our actions start, with our goals.  Quoting a Tedtalk by psychiatrist Robert Waldeinger, he noted, “a recent survey of millennials asking them what their most important goals were, over 80 percent said that a major life goal for them was to get rich.  And another 50 percent of those same young adults said that another major life goal was to become famous.”

Waldeinger is part of a 75-year study on adult development. His research shows it is not money and fame that keep people happy.  Those nearing the end of life who have good relationships are the healthiest and happiest.

For Jeff, in racing as well as in business, this means support from his wife and whole family. Jeff showed a picture of himself just before that first World Championship wearing a leg brace. Standing beside him was his wife, Linda.  Next to that was a picture of Jeff at the finish lines of one of his races. Again, Linda was there beside him.  Linda also owns The Network Team, working with Jeff to set the vision for the company and handling much of the finances.

On the racing side of things, Jeff had to find and listen to good coaches.  He stressed the need to find those who have gone further than you, and be open to their honest, often brutal, feedback.

Facing and Overcoming Fears

When Jeff was in last place at the World Championship, he had two choices. He could’ve let the fears win, or he could have faced them, made a plan and overcome them.  He chose the latter.

“I began the task of picking off the next runner.  The first guy was a Spaniard.  Then a Russian.  Then, another American.  Now, I was no longer in last place!”

Jeff could’ve given up in the race; not given his all and blamed his injury.  Instead, he went all in, and even managed to finish the race ahead of the number one athlete from South Africa.

In one’s professional life, the things we fear may not always be as clear as an injured foot, or seeing all the other runners ahead of us. Not giving your all in business can look like this: making decisions based on the bank balance instead of opportunities. Or spending too much time going after that which will pay now vs. that which will be most profitable in the future/long term.

Among the important business lessons Jeff encouraged the Young Professionals of Union County with was saying successful people often don’t know what they are doing…but they do something anyway.  Action always beats inaction.

Getting “A Round to it”

Jeff’s final point centered around action.  He spoke about how many professionals subscribe to a belief system that goes something like this: Work hard for most of your life so you can get around to relaxing when you retire.

This idea of spending most of your time with your head down, working until you can get ‘around to’ reflection and/or planning can be dangerous for a business.  How many times have you gone to a seminar, or read suggestions in a book on how to improve productivity, but never actually taken time away from the day to day grind to reflect on those learnings, and plan out how you will implement those business lessons?

Jeff handed out coasters made by the Union County Chamber of Commerce with “Round To IT” written on them.  He told attendees that now they had gotten ‘Around To It’ and no longer had an excuse for the things they were putting off doing.

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