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What the recent Olympics can teach us about managing money matters

The Olympics provided some memorable moments, but also lots of food for thought for investments, too. Here are a few observations that are particularly pertinent in these raging bull markets

August 20, 2021 / 09:51 AM IST

Over the past few weeks, the Tokyo Olympics provided the world with sporting entertainment with a display of skills across a range of disciplines.

For avid sports fans, these two weeks were exciting days, merrily switching live-streams across events as diverse as hockey, gymnastics, track & field, badminton and golf. We enjoyed and applauded the victories, but we also commiserated with those that came out second-best on that day, knowing that the effort that they had put in was no less. While there were winners, we discovered there were many more heroes, some whose names we heard for the first time, but will remember for long.

The Olympics provided some memorable moments, but also lots of food for thought for investments, too. Here are a few observations that are particularly pertinent in these raging bull markets.

It’s a lifetime’s arduous journey with temporary milestones

For us watching, it was excitement, joy, and even pride tinged with disappointment, but temporary. For those on the ground it is a lifetime of effort, which gets overshadowed and forgotten by the day’s performance.


For India, this was a joyous Olympics, with many things to celebrate and remember – our best ever medal haul, a first track & field gold, the long-awaited medal in men’s hockey, among others. But we also will hopefully remember the lion-hearted efforts in women’s hockey and golf among others, where we narrowly missed out on medals.

Your journey (financial or otherwise) is about your lifetime effort and not just about the events you win. So, remember to sober down when things are looking too good to be true as well as cheer up when you see downturns.

Performance: Relative in the short-term, but absolute in the long term

The events separated the winners from the others by awarding them medals, but every one of them was a hero, giving their best effort and trying to get better than what they were the previous day. In that sense, every sport is a marathon itself, and every sportsperson, whichever sport it is, is running his or her version of a marathon, trying at moments to stay in the game, but at all times, trying to get better than their existing best versions.

Sindhu may have got a bronze this time vs a silver in Rio, but in the long term what she is going to remember (and be remembered for) is that she went and won in successive Olympics, not the color of her medals.

Everyone’s needs, their risk appetite as well as their other constraints are unique. So, remember to run your marathon rather than trying to compete with others in short sprints.

Staying in the game is most important

Mirabai Chanu had a forgettable Rio Olympics in 2016, but she came back with a roar in 2021. It took her five years of waiting. Ravi Kumar Dahiya was losing his wrestling medal badly in the first five minutes, but overturned the match in the last minute and won.

It’s the person who is left standing in the end, to play again, who is the winner. Both of them did not get swayed either by intermediate victories or defeats, and neither did they give up, but just continued to stay in the game.

Make sure you have a robust plan and process and follow it, because when you are not on the right side, it’s the process and the plan that will give you the confidence and motivation to keep going.

Excellence is not just about winning

Even getting to go to an Olympics is the culmination of a long effort and one would think that considering this, the participants will be at each other’s throats, desperate to win at any cost. But the Olympics are synonymous with excellence and excellence is not just about winning. The pride of being an Olympian is not just about participating, but participating with honor.

Nothing can exemplify this more than the spirit with which Mutaz Essa Barshim decided to share his gold medal with Gianmarco Tamberi, rather than trying to give it one more shot to get ahead and take a solo win. His medal didn’t get any lesser by his sharing the victory, but rather, only acquired an additional radiance which will shine for long.

Your winning or doing well is not dependent on someone else losing or doing badly. This applies to work, life and your portfolios.

The sportsperson is only as strong as his or her support system

What we saw were sportsperson giving it their all to bring pride to themselves and their country. What we didn’t see as much was their support teams preparing them physically and mentally, cheering for them in victory as well as standing by their side, pepping them up in defeat.

It is only when the hockey teams reached the Olympics (and for many of us, when they reached the quarters and semis) that we got to know that the sponsor for the teams of our national sport for the last couple of years has been the Odisha government, and not one of the big brands.

People generally like to think their successes are their own and their failures are due to others. Your family, your friends, your colleagues, your advisors play an equally important role in your successes.

Everyone has an inspirational back-story

What we saw and read with amazement post the victories and defeats is the back-stories of many of the participants. Nearly everyone had an inspirational back-story, and it was tremendously motivating to see them reach there and compete despite those odds.

The women’s hockey team in particular warmed the hearts of every Indian, not just for their performance, but also the individual stories of each one of them which made us truly understand the herculean nature of their Olympic effort.

Everyone has a backstory, so do you. Your back-story can make you or break you. It’s a choice you make.
Girish Ganaraj is Co-founder, Finwise Personal Finance Solutions
first published: Aug 20, 2021 09:51 am
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