It was sensational to have triple Olympic Gold and multiple world
swimming champion, Australia’s own Grant Hackett, join us for a Slade breakfast
recently. Grant shared some of his personal journey as an Olympian and his thoughts
about what creates high performance behaviours.
Here are my seven takeaways from Grant’s talk with our team:
Goals: As a young teenager, aiming for the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Grant started writing down his goals on the bedroom wall, spelling out what he wanted to achieve across all his main swimming events.
Takeaway: Think and ink your goals
Purpose: A strong sense of purpose will help you find true meaning in what you do.
Takeaway: Be really clear within yourself about why you are doing, whatever it is that you do, particularly when planning your career
Benchmark: Grant recorded and gauged his performances against the then world king of the 1500 freestyle, Kieren Perkins (coincidentally his team mate). He compared Kieran’s achievements at various milestones, including age, distances, times and winning results, analysed them against his own performance and set himself targets.
Takeaway: Compare yourself to the best in your field and set approachable goals
Passion: Doing something you are passionate about involves pushing yourself beyond the ordinary boundaries, sometimes suffering, not always enjoying it and can often lead to disappointment. When you absolutely love something, you will want to be successful, no matter what.
Takeaway: Passion is what gets you through the challenges
Success: What would success (or failure) look like for you? For Grant, qualifying to wear an Olympic blazer wasn’t enough, he had to win gold, to be number one. While we can’t all be world leaders, we can certainly model others’ successful behaviours at work. Takeaway: With clarity over your objectives, you determine your own success
Sportsmanship: Competing with the same people internationally, year-round, Grant made lasting friendships with some of his team mates, as well as his competitors. Takeaway: While competition is healthy, developing collegiate relationships with your coworkers, customers and competitors also helps bring out the best in you
Self-talk: It’s the talk that you have with yourself, that voice inside your head, which can be more hinderance than help. Paradoxically, winners sometimes have more negative self-talk than others. Takeaway: Some self-doubt is normal, so take stock of yourself and the situation, then get on with it
As a specialist recruiter in Leisure & Sport, I have seen many former athletes go on to leadership roles, where these behaviours translate to business and career success. Grant is continuing to apply his learnings in his current role as CEO of Generation Development Group, where he is building a team with a high performance culture. Use our world class takeaways to get you started and go for gold!
Compliments of The Hustle, this blog is a 100% lift from Zachary Crockett’s post this week. If you’re not already, we highly recommend becoming a subscriber to The Hustle. Here he’s in conversation with Professor Robert Frank economist with Cornell University.
The ultra-wealthy often claim
they earned their riches through hard work and perseverance alone — but luck is
just as important.
A toxic myth pervades the business world:
Hard work and perseverance are the only things required to achieve immense
success and reach the top of your field.
It’s a mantra championed by everyone from
Wall Street titans to our sitting US President (“I built what I built myself,”
Trump told Charlie Rose in
1992. “I did it by working long hours, working hard and working smart!”).
This idea is staunchly rooted in the very
foundations of America — a nation built on the cornerstones of rugged individualism,
picking oneself up by the bootstraps, and accruing riches through sheer
determination. Those who do make it big often fancy themselves to be
But these stories overlook a crucial
ingredient of success: Luck.
Our conversation, lightly edited for clarity
and length, is transcribed below.
To start us off, certain successful folks — so-called “self-made”
businesspeople — believe they’ve earned everything in life due to hard work and
self-determination. But you argue they’re forgetting an important factor.
RF: Luck plays a
far greater role in life outcomes than successful people like to admit. When
you suggest that luck played a role in their success, they tend to get very
[Polls have shown that people in high-income
brackets are far more likely than low-income earners to say that success mainly
comes from hard work. Similarly, wealthy people are far more likely to
attribute their own success to hard work rather than good fortune.]
How do you define ‘luck’ and ‘success?’
consider luck to be anything that you’re not responsible for. Something
brought about by chance rather than your own actions. For success, I
focus narrowly on material success [i.e. the people with the most money
— those at the very top of the chain].
And are you saying that hard work and talent
at all. Hard work and talent are absolutely necessary for success.
market — especially in a space like tech — is extremely competitive. So you’re
probably not even going to be in the position to compete without the right mix
of hard work and talent. But the point of my argument is that these things are
not enough on their own.
of the time, the hardest-working and most talented people aren’t the ones who
experience the most success. There are a ton of people who are nearly as
talented and nearly as hard-working as those people who probably just
got a little luckier.
a meritocratic contest where 98% of a job candidate’s success is based on
talent and hard work and the other 2% on luck. You can run this a thousand
times and the most talented or hardest-working person will very rarely win. To
win, you have to be talented and hardworking — but you also have to be
you get into the top ranks of any profession, there are so many people who are
so good that the difference in skill level is almost imperceptible.
Winner Take All market is a market where someone who is maybe only 1% better
than another person gets a disproportionately high share of the rewards.
the #1 person and #10 person in a profession aren’t that far apart. The
most well-known soprano singer might only be a tiny breath better than
the tenth best. But in this market, she gets a huge premium and the other one
might end up being a 3rd-grade music teacher somewhere in New Jersey.
Does luck begin from the minute we’re born?
begins way before we’re born. The mere fact that you were conceived is such a
long-odds phenomenon: If one of a trillion things happened differently, you
wouldn’t exist at all.
you’re smart, inclined to work hard, have ambition — these qualities are all
some unknown mixture of genetics and environmental factors. You didn’t choose
where to be born, you didn’t raise yourself, or provide the genes that made you
who you are. So, when you say you’re “self-made,” it’s kind of hard to lay
claim to those qualities.
On that note, what are your thoughts on Kylie Jenner being
dubbed the youngest “self-made” billionaire?
At the very least you have to give her credit
for starting a successful company.
she lucky? Of course! She began with a lot of money and name recognition, so
that title is a bit of an overblown claim. To say anyone is a “self-made
billionaire” — that she earned the entirety of her wealth through merit — is
It seems like even tiny little things you’d
never think about — factors out of our control — can dramatically impact your
chances of success.
you were born in June or July, you’re less likely to be a CEO. You’re probably
one of the youngest in your class all the way through school, so you’re less
likely to hold leadership positions. [This is called the relative age effect.]
don’t choose your own height, but that can make a big difference too. [The
average Fortune 500 CEO is 2.5” taller than the average
American man. Overall, 58% of top CEOs are 6’+, compared to 14.5% of the US
population. It’s also worth noting that women only make up ~5% of Fortune 500 CEOs.]
these little events that are out of our control might seem like they don’t
matter, but they do. They can change your entire career path.
A lot of people say things like, “You create
your own luck,” or “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” Do you agree?
sayings are valid, in my opinion.
you’re not prepared when an opportunity comes along, what the hell difference
does it make? If you’re not prepared, you won’t be able to capitalize on an opportunity
if one happens to come along. But you still have to be lucky to get that
Why do people get so defensive when you tell
them luck played a role in their success?
people look back on their lives and think about why they were successful, they
more readily remember all the hard work — not the chance events. [This is
called hindsight bias.]
best metaphor for this is headwind and tailwind. If you’re battling an
obstacle, you’re conscious of it; you have to work hard to overcome it. But if
something is pushing you along, you don’t notice it as much and you’re less
likely to credit it in the narrative of your success.
Can good things come out of admitting that
part of your success was due to dumb luck?
tend to like you better when you attribute part of your success to luck instead
of saying you’re self-made. [In an experiment, subjects were presented with
multiple versions of a CEO bio: One credited luck and skill, the other just
skill. Subjects who read the luck version responded more favorably to the CEO.]
who acknowledge luck in success are also more generous. [One study showed that
people prompted to recall instances in which luck led to a positive outcome
were 25% more likely to donate money to charity than those who were asked to
recall an instance where their own actions led to a positive outcome].
people could just learn to recognize they were fortunate, they’d be happier.
It’s a missed opportunity.