What can CAs learn from Olympians?

By Andrew Harbison, CA Today

26 August 2016

It’s hard to believe that the gold-nosed British Airways 747, renamed victoRIOus, was able to take off from Rio with such a vast amount of gold, silver and bronze on board. The metals were not the only precious cargo it was carrying, as the plane was also ferrying the medal owners; 320 Team GB Olympians returning from the UK’s most successful games in over a century.

The spectacular efforts put in by the athletes, which earned them a medal tally of 27 gold, 23 silver and 17 bronze, will no doubt inspire people the length and breadth of the country. But what lessons can CAs learn from Olympic athletes?   

Visualise your goal

Visualisation is a time-honoured technique used by athletes to help them stay on track to reach their goals. Using your imagination to create a clear picture of what your achievement will look like can work just as well in a business and finance setting as it does on the track, field or in the water.

Running sunset

Athletes are dedicated to turning their internal picture of success into a reality. British superstar heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill currently uses this technique. Quoted in The Telegraph, Jessica said, “I use visualisation to think about the perfect technique. If I can get that perfect image in my head, then hopefully it’ll affect my physical performance.”

Whether it's career progression or working towards a financial target, CAs can uses this mental tool to create a road map to their goals. The technique can also be used in a group setting to help all involved share the same understanding of where they are going and how they intend to get there.

Courage in the face of adversity

In our professional and personal lives there will be times of great hardship. During these times it is easy for the shadow of self-doubt to cast itself across your day to day activities.

Team GB sprint cyclist Becky James is more familiar with this feeling than most. She was a reserve during the 2012 London Olympics, suffered a potentially career ending knee injury two years later, and came through a cancer scare.

In the face of all that, she had the physical strength and mental courage to push past her obstacles and win two silver medals in Rio.

ICAS teaches CAs the importance of moral courage through its Power of One and Moral DNA initiatives. Both of these call on CAs to use this courage for ethical leadership and to help shape the culture and values of the n the workplace environment.


You may have seen some of the many pictures of Olympians who, after competing in their final event, gorge themselves on an array of fast food favourites like burgers and pizza.


Not only is this their way of rewarding themselves for a job well done, it is a sign of what they have had to give up to compete at the most prestigious athletic event on the planet. Early mornings and hours at the gym are just some of the temporary sacrifices they make to be the best they can be.

This translates to the world of business and finance, especially if you are an entrepreneur: the hard work and commitment you put in now will pay dividends in the future.

Take pride in what you do

Doing something that you love is a wonderful position to be in. You are more focused and work harder if you are involved in something that you are genuinely invested in.

What makes winning an Olympic medal so special is not just all the hard work and determination that came before it, but that you are the best at doing what you love.  

One of Britain’s greatest athletes, Mo Farah, credits this pattern of thinking for pushing him to give all that he can to cross the finishing line in first place. He was quoted in The Guardian as saying: “It’s been a long journey and it’s been up and down. But one thing that really drives me; I enjoy what I do and you can’t take that away from me.”

Career Connect, the ICAS career mentoring programme, is an invaluable resource available to all CAs at any stage in their career. Our experienced mentors can guide mentees in developing career goals and becoming the best at doing what they love, as much as Mo does.


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