What We Can Learn From Michael Phelp’s Intensity

by Kevin on February 2, 2009

If you happened to be living under a rock this past August you may have missed all of the Michael Phelps pandemonium that swept over America. At the ripe young age of 23 Phelps won 8 gold medals in the Beijing Olympics — one in every event he competed in. These 8 wins are added to his overall collection which now stands at 16 overall medals (14 gold, 2 silver).

In other words, he is a completely dominate force in his sport. You may think swimming has absolutely nothing to do with personal finance (other than the millions of dollars Phelps earned), but I think there are some lessons we can learn from him.

Success Does Not Come Easy

Phelps has been swimming since age seven. He was diagnosed with ADHD as a child and swimming gave him something to focus on that also used up a large amount of his available energy. In several TV specials before, during, and after the Olympics, Phelps’ training regiment was on display. Reports varied slightly, but generally agreed that he spends 8 or so hours in the pool every day and consumes 8,000 to 12,000 calories per day (or 4 to 6 times as much as a normal adult male).

Personal finance success also does not come easy. Setting up a budget can be difficult. Not going out with spend-happy friends can make you an outsider. Cutting off the cable can start a fight with your spouse. But are you just wishing for success in this area of your life? Or are you spending eight hours “in the pool”?

Results Don’t Happen Overnight

Again, Phelps started swimming at a very young age. Once his coach realized how talented he was the serious training set in. He competed in the 2000 Olympics at age 15 and came in 5th place in the 200 meter butterfly event. Many would consider just getting to the Olympics a successful career, but not Phelps. Back into the pool. Back to training. Off to college. More competitions.

End result? He is one of the most successful Olympians… ever.

Note that Phelps didn’t start training for the 2008 Olympics in May of 2008. He couldn’t have hoped for success that quickly. August of 2008 was the culmination of years upon years of hard work.

Financially, don’t expect immediate results. Come up with goals and work toward them. And don’t get discouraged when you don’t succeed immediately.

Complete Focus Drives Results

Michael didn’t train like this: two months of hard work, three months off without any training, one month of hard work, two months off without any training…

If he did would we really expect anything great from him? I doubt it.

The same applies to your financial life. Many people can get going on a budget plan for about a month or two before they fall off of the wagon. Then they moan and groan for a few months while racking up more debt before realizing they need to get back on the wagon.

It’s a bad cycle to get involved with. So don’t.

We All Slip and Stumble

As recently highlighted in the mainstream media photos of Michael were recently published showing him enjoying some recreational drugs. He has admitted to them being true photos and apologized for his mistakes.

Does this make him less of an athlete? Less of a record breaking Olympian? I think not. He made a mistake.

You and I will make mistakes as we struggle to remove debt from our lives and build wealth. We need to own up to those mistakes, make changes in our lives so we don’t repeat them, and move on.

My goal for No Debt Plan is to help you get out of debt and avoid issues like those above. What else should be added to the list?


Ken February 2, 2009 at 7:45 pm

RESULTS DON’T HAPPEN OVERNIGHT….so true! It takes consistent, persistent effort to achieve financial success. The player that wins is the one who is committed and driven toward the goal. Yes there will be bad training days (mistakes) but you keep your eye on the goal.
Great post!

Kevin February 5, 2009 at 8:50 am

@Ken: Thanks!

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