This Australian Olympic gold medalist shares 5 lessons he took from sport and successfully applied to business

Getty ImagesSteve Hooker

Australian Olympian and gold medalist Steve Hooker is one of the best pole vaulters in history.

Having won gold at the Beijing Olympics, Berlin World Championships, Melbourne Commonwealth Games, and Athens World Cup, there are few titles, if any, the pole vaulter hasn’t claimed in his sport.

Transitioning to business after his athletic career, Hooker was able to take some of the skills and mindset he gained from pole vaulting and apply them to his role as CEO of property company Resimax Group.

“Reaching a pinnacle of world sport is something I’m incredibly proud to have achieved,” Hooker says.

“While I thought that winning gold would be the biggest challenge of my life, becoming CEO… presented me with an entirely new ladder to climb.

“I’m no longer overcoming literal hurdles, but the property sector has hurdles of its own, and I often find myself drawing heavily on my learnings from the track to overcome them.”

Here are five lessons he learned from track and field, and has applied to business:

1. Have a healthy relationship with risk

The business world is characteristically risk-adverse. However, in competitive sport, you can’t afford to be. With risk comes opportunity — they’re both two sides of the same coin.

Often we hear that the greater the risk, the greater the opportunity. In my pole vaulting days, I would weigh up variables and figure out quickly what the risk and reward would be under certain circumstances. This gave me a greater understanding of risk and made me into the decision maker I am today, which is critical in the property sector — a space filled with even more variables.

2. Set a vision and communicate it to the team

In any major jumping event, I’d go in with a vision for a specific result, whether that’s winning a gold medal at the Olympic Games or jumping at a certain height. But I’d always have to have the same vision of getting there as my coach or other members of my small team. And it was always a very precise vision.

I think it’s much more difficult to convey that vision in corporate life. The vision could be clear in one person’s head, while another person may have a completely different vision tied to their own goals or responsibilities. You think you’ve communicated it well and that everyone’s running in the same direction, but sometimes you find that they’re running off in different directions or interpretations, or having their own vision entirely.

Ensuring your vision is aligned with your teams’ is critical in the business world. I think I’m quite good at seeing a goal or a vision that’s a long way down the road, and one thing I’m working at getting better at is going on that journey with my team.

3. Embrace failure

For every example of success in my sporting career I could name just as many failures; I like to think it I means that I’m not afraid to try things. I’ll always give something a go or test an idea out.

I try and figure out if it’s going to work quickly, so if it’s going to fail, how quickly until it does? I’m happy to have things occasionally not work, because I feel every failure is one step closer to a success.

4. Build your own personal team

Pole vaulting may be an individual sport, but behind every great athlete is a great team. From physios and doctors to nutritionists and running coaches, everyone had a role to play in my career success.

I’ve learned the benefit of having experts in place and really coordinating and managing them. I suppose that’s the role I play at Resimax — I make sure that I have the best possible people in my team that I trust. People that are far more knowledgeable and better than me in their areas of the business.

What underpins our values at Resimax is our strong sense of family and being a tight-knit team. We are family in everything we do, our approach and what we value most. The CEO may be responsible for the overall success of a business, but laying trust in talented people is essential in getting there.

5. Pay attention to your wellbeing — but don’t overdo it

We talk about paying attention to our wellbeing, but you don’t want to obsess over it — the attention should be minimal yet effective.

I had 10 years of doing everything at 100% in my sport, so I know what looking after myself at 80% looks like, and for me that’s just the right amount. Try not to obsess over the last 20%.

Ultimately, wellbeing is all about having frameworks. If you have frameworks in place for your nutrition, mental health and state of mind — especially if you are in one of those sentry roles that involve sitting at a desk all day — then you’re doing it right.

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