4 Former Athletes Who Transitioned to Successful Careers in Business

4 Former Athletes Who Transitioned to Successful Careers in Business

In terms of a winning attitude, CEOs stand to learn a lot from professional athletes. As author and life coach Tony Robbins explains, people who develop the absolute sense of certainty provided by powerful belief can accomplish virtually anything, including feats others assumed were impossible, be that beating a world record on the competition circuit or taking a fledgling startup to the top of its industry.

In this article, we look at four people who retired from professional sports and have since gone on to achieve extraordinary success in the corporate world.

1. Michael Phelps

The most decorated Olympian of all time, former competitive swimmer Michael Phelps leveraged his extraordinary success and personal brand to help other people, launching the Michael Phelps Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting healthy lifestyle choices. He also serves on the board of Medibio, which works to diagnose mental health disorders.

The 23-time Olympic gold medalist used a $1 million sponsor bonus he received at the 2008 Beijing Games to set up a private foundation with the goal of spreading his ethos of “Dream, Plan, Reach” among young Americans.

In collaboration with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the Michael Phelps Foundation presents a swimming program designed to encourage children of all ages to join the sport and to promote an active and healthy lifestyle.

In his role with Medibio, Michael Phelps works with some of the world’s leading doctors and health experts, looking at ways that Medibio’s groundbreaking technology could address challenges in terms of identifying and treating various mental health issues.

2. Shannon Miller

Born in 1977 in Rolla, Missouri, Shannon Miller is a former gymnast who won the world all-round champion title in 1993 and 1994. She went on be declared a champion at the Pan American Games in 1995 and became an Olympic gold medal winner in the balance beam event. Possessing a total of seven medals, Shannon Miller is the most decorated US female gymnast in the history of the Olympics.

Following her retirement from professional athletics, Shannon Miller attended the University of Houston, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and entrepreneurship. She then studied at Boston College Law School, graduating in 2007. Ultimately, Shannon Miller decided against sitting for the bar exam, instead moving to Florida and starring in workout DVDs, conducting beam clinics, and making appearances at gyms.

Today, Miller is the president of the Shannon Miller Foundation, an organization dedicated to tackling childhood obesity.  She also runs her own company, Shannon Miller Worldwide, which aims to encourage women to make health a priority.

Traveling the country as a motivational speaker, Shannon Miller advocates for the wellness of women and children, seeking to empower them through awareness and education.

3. Dwayne Johnson

Arguably as famous now for his acting career as his time as a WWE wrestler, Dwayne Johnson is also a bestselling author, the owner of a production company, and the founder of the Dwayne Johnson Rock Foundation.

Johnson recounts a crystallizing moment in 1995 when, with just $7 in his pocket, he became determined to turn his fortune around.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Dwayne Johnson’s secret talent is being a “suit” without seeming like one. Through his company Seven Bucks Productions, a company he runs with ex-wife Dany Garcia, Johnson oversees 15 employees, running a tight ship and even squeezing in meetings while working on film sets.

Seven Bucks Productions, a company that he and Garcia built from the ground up, is a highly successful enterprise today, producing television shows and multimillion-dollar movies, earning its own Harvard Business School case study. Building on his successes, Dwayne Johnson recently launched his own YouTube channel. He is also affiliated with Under Armour and the Teremana tequila brand.

4. Tony Hawk

Tony Hawk is a retired skateboarder. Known as “Birdman,” Hawk was the first person in the world to land a “900,” a move that involves 2½ mid-air skateboard revolutions.

Ten years later, Hawk was skating around the hallways of the Old Executive Office Building in the White House grounds after being invited to Barack Obama’s Father’s Day celebrations. Tony Hawk retired from professional skateboarding in 2016, announcing his retirement immediately after landing his last 900.

Hawk cofounded Birdhouse Skateboards with Per Welinder in 1992. He also had his own apparel brand and video game series. Launched in 1999, the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater video game developed into a series comprising 18 titles. A series of amusement park rides was also launched in Hawk’s name. In 2011, Hawk started the skateboarding channel RIDE.

Reflecting on his sporting career, Hawk said he kept his falls in context. Rather than being defined by his failures, he reflected on them as isolated learning experiences to be mined for valuable insights, a strategy that is equally impactful in business.

Meanwhile, his foundation, The Skatepark Project, has pledged more than $10 million towards the development and construction of over 600 skate parks across the United States, inviting young people from underserved communities to follow in Hawk’s footsteps.

Featured Image courtesy Automotive Rhythms | Flickr