Allyson Felix Sets Two Records at the Tokyo Olympics


“Write Something For Me”

My daughter, 15 years old and getting ready to start her senior year in high school, said, “write something for me to read today, dad.”

So I thought it would be helpful to tell her, and you, about Allyson Felix, the Olympian who set a record as the Track & Field athlete to win the most medals. The other day she tied Carl Lewis. But last night, as part of a 4×400 relay, her team won again.

So she set a record that will be very hard to beat. Seven golds, three silvers and a bronze – 11 medals. That's incredible!

That's the record you've likely already heard about. I bet even my daughter has seen it on Twitter or Instagram.

But wait. I said Allyson Felix sets two records, right? So what's the other one?

What's the Other Record?

Back in 2018, Allyson Felix was training with a secret. She wanted to start a family. And that's not something (at the time) that Olympians did. It would be the end of her career (according to some).

Her contract with her sponsor, Nike, was getting renegotiated and she wanted some protections in case she didn't perform the way she had right after having a child. But Nike didn't go for it.

Now, maybe you've seen the recent ads that Nike created telling you how they're supporting their pregnant athletes.

You can thank Allyson for that. Because when Nike offered to cut her sponsorship deal by 70%, Allyson walked. And she published her story in the New York Times.

This is all the backstory to her other record.

She ended up signing with Athleta. But that's not where her story ends.

Allyson & Saysh

When Allyson ran this last week at the Olympics in Tokyo, she wasn't wearing Nike spikes. Instead, she was wearing Saysh One. Never heard of it? Neither had I.

Saysh is a company Allyson founded after leaving Nike.

A lot of athletes get special branded shoes, the most likely one we all know of is the Nike Jordans. But those athletes are running or playing with shoes made by the manufacturer. They're still Nikes. Or Adidas. Or Puma.

Allyson was the first Olympian to ever compete while wearing her own company's spikes.

That's the second record that is super interesting to me.

Why Is It Important that Allyson Felix Set Two Records?

I write for entrepreneurs. The story of a woman who, on Friday, ran faster to win the bronze medal in the 400m as a mom and at 35, than she had in 2016 to win silver, is inspiring.

Most of us will never compete in an Olympics. And even fewer will medal.

But every one of us can start a company.

And every person can leverage their brand, their community, and their following to make their voice heard. They don't have to rely on the large players in the space to succeed.

That's the message I wanted to make sure people heard – not just for my daughter, but for all of us.

In my career I have left large organizations, left money on the table, and even taken pay cuts, to step into a different space where my voice would matter and be heard.

I know tons of entrepreneurs who have left the safety of a corporate job, to start something on their own. Believing that it will be better for them than staying “safe.”

Because safe isn't what we think it is.

Safety is Only Safe If You Have Agency

What Allyson did was bet on herself. And that's a powerful message and metaphor for all of us (even if we're not creating our own shoe lines).

I have worked, full time, in corporate America for a long time. I like it. I believe there are many lessons people could learn if they worked in these contexts for a while. Situations they'll face that they never would in a startup.

And don't forget (if you already knew), I started and sold several startups.

But like I said, I've never feared walking away. Because I've never looked at my positions as a safety net. If I had, that would have given the power and control to an organization (however benevolent they may be), instead of keeping it for myself.

I do that in three ways, which I recommend to each of you.

First, and maybe the hardest, spend less than you make. The best way to create your own safety net is to have a savings account.

Second, build your own brand and platform. There's a reason I write all the time. I want you to know and trust my voice. Not just as a role in another company. But under my own brand. I've written about this before.

Third, network. I've said it before, “All things being equal, people like to buy things from their friends. So make things as equal as possible and then make as many friends as you can.”

When Allyson created Saysh, she did it with a co-founder. When they went to raise money, they pulled in $3 million right away. That's a function of having a brand and networking.

So be like Allyson. Make your voice heard. And always bet on yourself.

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