Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Olympic legend Edwin Moses: How to be a winner

By Rose Hoare, CNN
updated 4:00 PM EDT, Thu August 2, 2012
Olympic hurdler Edwin Moses says he applied information from other disciplines -- including physics and ballet -- to perfect his technique. Olympic hurdler Edwin Moses says he applied information from other disciplines -- including physics and ballet -- to perfect his technique.
HIDE CAPTION
Edwin Moses
Edwin Moses
Edwin Moses
Edwin Moses
Edwin Moses
Edwin Moses
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Olympic hurdler Edwin Moses learned about business while an international athlete.
  • The MBA and financial consultant says successful sportspeople are created, not born.
  • A physics major, Moses tailored his own training program and technique.

(CNN) -- Edwin Moses would like it to be known that Olympic athletes are made -- painstakingly -- not born.

In a remarkable career as a 400 meters hurdler, Moses won gold at the 1976 and 1984 Olympics, broke four world records and enjoyed one of sport's greatest winning streaks -- going unbeaten for an incredible 122 races.

Known as "Kermit" in high school for his long, frog-like limbs, Moses started hurdling when he was substituted in for a relay race. "Someone got hurt and the coach said 'who wants to try hurdles?'" he recalls. "I just got up there and started doing it. Never had anyone teach me, I just learned by doing it."

Following his track career, Moses formulated an assistance program that allowed athletes to accept funding from stipends and endorsements without losing their eligibility to compete at the Olympics.

My career proves that you can be on top for a long period of time by doing things that come naturally.
Edwin Moses, Olympic hurdler

Today, Moses is a father, chair of the Laureus World Sports Academy, which promotes social change through sport, and a financial consultant for an investment management bank.

He is also a motivational speaker who aims to inspire success in a corporate environment. Here, he tells Route to the Top about some of the principles that have underpinned his success, and that can apply to your own career, whether you're chasing Olympic gold, or just a promotion.

First learn, then innovate ...

"I won my first gold medal in '76. I was 20 years old, which is young by today's standards. I was right in the middle of my third year of college, studying physics and engineering, so I had a very good grounding in the mechanics of running.

Olympic legends explains game importance

"At Morehouse College we had no track, no field, no physical therapist, no massage therapist, nothing. So I basically had to put together an intense training program.

Olympic legends reflect on their success

"I was very innovative, because I didn't have a lot of resources. I had a room mate who was a principal dancer with the Atlanta Ballet, so I learned a lot about stretching, precision body movements, things like that."

Know the competition, know yourself ...

"In any competitive environment, whether you're in sales or marketing or whatever it is, you have to know your competition, understand who they are, do intelligent analysis on them and then you have to know yourself -- who you are and what you're capable of doing.

"You have to know your external environment, as well. "

See also: Haile Gebrselassie - tips for the top

Make time for work and leisure ...

"The way I look at it, there is a 'no-compression zone,' where you have your family, your personal life, things like your health and well being, a hobby, rest and relaxation.

One technique that may produce a world record for one guy could be useless for another guy.
Edwin Moses, Olympic hurdler

"Then there's the 'compression zone.' You should be ready, when you go there, for things that can affect your performance, like commuting, stress on the job, electronic distractions, media that people get addicted to, and your internal and external job politics.

"You need to carve out enough time to be successful in both areas. You have to strategize, analyze, initiate and follow through."

Adapt methods to suit your own style ...

"I always saw hurdles as a form of art, because it's very individual. One technique that may produce a world record for one guy could be useless for another guy. You really have to put it all together yourself.

"That's what I did."

See also: To reach your potential, dare to be different

Seek out other innovators ...

"I found ways to maintain my performance through working with professionals and doing things that other people weren't doing.

"Later in my career, I had a great physical therapist who kept me out on the track. We were doing innovative things like ice baths back in the early 80s when everyone else thought it was crazy.

"They were the only kind of people that I would even talk to concerning my races, because we were at a completely different level."

Even when you're winning, stay focused on your program ...

I prepared myself better than everyone else on a daily basis.
Edwin Moses, Olympic hurdler

"I never thought about (my winning streak). All I knew was that I prepared myself better than everyone else on a daily basis and every race was mine to lose.

"I never thought about the competition. I only thought about the seven or eight elements of my training program that I had to check off every day.

"My life became measured in tenths of seconds. I knew exactly how hard I needed to run to hit those targets. I knew exactly how many I needed to do, to be in a certain condition. I knew exactly what intervals I needed for rest time in between.

"I had the whole thing wrapped up very scientifically. For me, it was like a big laboratory out there.

"I had to think about a year of workouts and where that would put me on race day."

Be driven, but be ethical ...

"In sports, there are people who, with the assistance of enablers and illegal substances can become better, and I find most of them would be mediocre without them.

"My career proves that you can be on top for a long period of time by doing things that come naturally."

See also: Is good karma good for business?

It's all about hard work ...

"I started out not a talented person in track and field and just loved the sport and put so much into it that I became one of the best.

"In basketball, football, whatever, you're dealing with a group of people who dedicate a lot of time and energy and have a lot of work habits. When things get tough, they're the last people out there.

"Those are the people that become professional athletes. It's not really about talent or just being born to do it. That professional basketball player probably shoots 500 shots a day every day. Every day."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Route to the Top
updated 6:23 AM EDT, Fri March 28, 2014
A woman passes the logo of WEF on the second day of the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos on January 27, 2011.
Women now account for a fifth of FTSE 100 executive board members -- but is the glass ceiling in Britain finally beginning to crack?
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Tue March 25, 2014
Julia Hobsbawm is known the "queen of networking." We ask her how she connects with people in the digital age.
updated 6:57 AM EDT, Tue March 18, 2014
What can the world's leading bosses teach you about leadership? Check out our interactive to find out.
updated 9:28 AM EST, Fri March 7, 2014
How did Bill Gates reach the top? Find out in the Microsoft founders own words.
updated 6:14 AM EST, Tue March 4, 2014
Actors dressed as ancient Roman soldiers march in a commemorative parade during festivities marking the 2,766th anniversary of the founding of Rome on April 21, 2013 in Rome, Italy. The capital celebrates its founding annually based on the legendary foundation of the Birth of Rome. Actors dressed as the denizens of ancient Rome participate in parades and re-enactments of the ancient Roman Empire. According to legend, Rome had been founded by Romulus in 753 BC in an area surrounded by seven hills. (Photo by Giorgio Cosulich/Getty Images)
The C-Suite. Near mythical in status. The Valhalla you reach in corporate life when you've made it. So, how do you get there?
updated 10:00 AM EDT, Fri November 1, 2013
A collage of favorite executive technologies.
We asked five of the world's leading executives what item of tech has best helped them streamline their productivity at work.
updated 11:52 AM EDT, Thu October 31, 2013
Greed, envy, pride and wrath: Four of the seven deadly sins and the subtext of many a cautionary tale. But could these complex traits also be of use at work?
updated 5:30 PM EDT, Tue October 8, 2013
Entrepreneur and author Andrew Keen explores why the office could soon be a thing of the past.
updated 10:55 AM EDT, Thu October 24, 2013
An unemployed worker holds a up sign on a street corner in Washington, DC.
How can the millennial generation nab the perfect job? Career expert, Dan Schawbel gives his eight top tips.
updated 11:13 AM EDT, Fri October 4, 2013
What's the best way to tell your boss you quit? We look at five great resignation stunts from the past.
updated 6:26 AM EDT, Tue October 1, 2013
Sir Alex Ferguson celebrates after his Manchester United side beat Stoke City in April 2014.
Football managers are high profile leaders in sport but can they also offer valuable business insights?
updated 4:27 AM EDT, Thu June 27, 2013
The global financial crisis has made college degrees more important than ever in raising personal income, a new study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has found.
updated 10:32 PM EDT, Thu June 20, 2013
Take a look inside some of the offices of Silicon Valley's most well-known companies.
ADVERTISEMENT