6 Art Biz Lessons We Can Learn from Olympic Athletes

Emily Zupsic | August 17, 2016 (Updated September 20, 2022)

Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

Whether or not you are a sports fanatic, it’s hard not to get excited when the Summer Olympics roll around. With every nation coming together,  it’s thrilling to see the best of the best compete on the world stage.

Even though it may seem that artists and athletes are worlds apart, a closer look reveals how much they actually have in common. Both professions require immense skill, discipline, and dedication required for success.

In honor of the games, we discovered six lessons inspired by Olympic athletes that can help bring your art business to the winner’s circle. Take a look:

1. Overcome Any Obstacle

Inspiration doesn’t fully describe the feeling we get watching Olympians overcome the seemingly insurmountable obstacles on their way to success. This year, one of our favorite stories from the 2016 Rio Games is about Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini.

Yusra, only a teenager, saved the lives of eighteen refugees as they were fleeing Syria by boat. When the dinghy’s motor failed, she and her sister jumped into the freezing water and pushed the boat for three hours, bringing everyone to safety. Yusra never gave up, and her abilities were recognized and Olympic dreams achieved with the creation of the Refugee Olympic Athletes Team.

What an amazing takeaway. If you have the passion, you must find the perseverance to keep moving forward in your art business. Obstacles may get in your way, but like Yusra, if the fight to overcome them, anything is possible.

2. Develop a Vision

Olympic athletes are often told to visualize the motions of their sport, as well as the exact outcome they desire. Visualization helps athletes understand every necessary step to accomplishing their dream so they can make it happen.

The same goes for your art business. Without a vision for your ideal art career, you will never be able to achieve it! Breaking your dream down into smaller, achievable goals also makes the journey into the art world much easier to navigate.

A quick tip: Arts Business Institute suggests envisioning all aspects of your art business, from the perfect studio, to how your career fits in with the rest of your life. That way, you can keep on top of your successes, no matter how you define them.

Photo by Matt Lee on Unsplash

3. Strategize for Success

Take a look at gold medal swimmer Katie Ledecky’s training regimen on ESPN.com. It’s intense, to say the least, but you can’t argue its effectiveness.

What we can all learn from Katie is that success takes careful planning and hard work. If you don’t strategize how you are going to execute the vision for your art business, then more than likely, your dream will fall by the wayside.

It may take detailed to-do lists, scheduling reminders in Artwork Archive, mapping out short and long term plans, and asking for the help of family, friends, and mentors. But, being diligent in your art business strategy will help you reach the finish line.

4. Practice Makes Perfect

Even Olympians had to start somewhere, and they are always trying get better with practice. Likewise, artists must have the same intense devotion to practicing their craft. And, as this Bustle article explains, physical training just scratches the surface of their dedicated and highly orchestrated daily routines.

Artists, like athletes, must also practice having a positive work-life balance. This includes de-stressing, sleeping enough, and eating well so that you feel your best and are ready to produce art at a high level. Another necessity to be successful? Developing mental well-being by practicing mindfulness and cultivating good habits.

5. Adapt to Your Surroundings

Olympic athletes come from all over the world to compete, which means they aren’t always used to the conditions at the games. Athletes have to find a way to adapt to the heat, humidity, and other problems posed if they want to come out on top.

The art world is constantly changing, too. If you want your art business to do well, you are going to have to adapt. How, you ask? By becoming a life-long learner. Read books and blog posts about art marketing. Learn new techniques online and in workshops. Dabble with social media, and listen to podcasts. Dedicating yourself to learning will help you stay ahead in the art business game.

6. Don’t Be Afraid of Failure

Every time an Olympic runner takes her mark or volleyball player begins his serve, they know they may fail. But, they compete anyway. Olympic athletes believe in their abilities and don’t let the fear of losing keep them from playing the game.

Artists must be just as resilient. You may not get into every juried show, make every potential sale, or land coveted gallery representation right away, but you can’t get discouraged. Like we said earlier, you must overcome these obstacles, adapt, and develop a new strategy.

Remember—it’s only failure if you don’t learn something and grow.

What’s the bottom line?

Both artists and athletes must work hard to achieve their goals, overcoming obstacles and developing strategies along the way. Remember the inspiration you feel watching Olympians fulfill their dreams, and take their strategies back to the studio with you.

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