What I’ve learned watching Michael Phelps

Unless you’ve been on another planet for the last two weeks, you’ve seen and heard about Michael Phelps and his quest for Olympic history by winning 8 Gold Medals in Beijing. I thought about it and several things came to mind that we as leaders, and anyone, can learn. First, look at 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, which is a very relevant comparison, then chew on what I’ve learned about leadership in the church or your family:

  • INTENSITY– Michael is an intense competitor, not wanting to lose. We should have the same intensity when it comes to the Gospel. Losing is not an option.
  • FOCUS- we need to have a single focus (tough to do for those of us with multi-tasking personalities and ADD). We must stay focused on Jesus personally and on lifting Him up professionally. That’s it. Run the race with your eyes on the prize, the finish line, Jesus.

  • WORK HARD/EXERCISE – Phelps is a hard worker, no question. We need to approach our ministry with the same energy and diligence. Sluggards need not apply. Doesn’t mean we become workaholics, just doing our best, giving a full effort every time. Exercise the gifts you have. Be good at what you do. Strive to get better.
  • EAT- Phelps eats 12,000 calories a day (while training and competing) WOW! He is said to expend over 4,000 calories in a workout/race. If we are going to work hard at a tough race, grueling battle, like church planting, pastoring, teaching, reaching, then we must be fed. A lot! We will drain our reserves quicker and won’t have the energy to finish well. Spend time in prayer, the Word, reading, listening to others, learning, solitude. EAT…A LOT!
  • DEDICATIONnough said!
  • HUMILITY– Phelps was always humble in post race interviews. Not the typical cocky athlete we see in most professional sports. Stay humble, knowing where your strength, abilities, and giftedness comes from. Remember Who you represent.
  • TEAM- In the Athens Olympics in ’04, Michael could have gone for his7th gold to tie Mark Spitz then. However, he gave up his spot on the final relay team so that the USA could have the best chance to win gold. It worked too. He wasn’t about himself in these games either. Constantly praising and encouraging teammates in the relays. Knowing that without them, his record would not have been possible. None of us are islands. We must always remember that there are others around us who make what happens in our churches possible. Some are paid others are volunteer. Be mindful of the team. Keep giving them praise when necessary and deserving. Encourage them when they fumble. We’re all in need of someone to lift up our arms as Aaron and Hur did for Moses.
  • FAMILY IS IMPORTANT – some of the first people he would look for in the stands was his mom and sisters. It was evident that they had a close relationship and that it was important. As leaders, this is the most important relationship, outside our relationship with Christ. Our families must be a priority if we are to have an impact on another generation. Even when things are busy, intense and focused, don’t lose sight of the ones who are most important in your life (and in whose lives you are most important).
  • GO HARD ALL THE WAY TO THE FINISH – in the finals of the 100m Butterfly it looked as if Phelps was going to lose the gold. But as the guy in the lead glided toward the wall, Phelps took one more quick half stroke. That made the difference as he won the gold by .01 seconds. The narrowest of margins. It was a great race, but the difference was that extra stroke. Going hard to the finish as opposed to gliding when things seem won. We have to remember that no matter what, we have to go hard all the way. No gliding.

Just some things God showed me as I watched this great athlete. Lessons that apply to being great leaders in the Kingdom of God. Maybe there’s more. What have you learned?

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