Donald 2016

This one goes down in history both at home and abroad.

Not only was it a big year for Donald from Donald: a little further away from home another Donald also had a bit to say – and earned the Time magazine accolade of the Person of the Year. A big congrats to Donald Trump, and all the best to him as he embarks on his biggest undertaking yet. There’s a lot at stake for all leaders, but none more so than the leader of a nation.

I originally set out to share some reflections on the Donald James William Elgin year just past, but the crazy thing is that once I got started I couldn’t help but see a number of similarities between my last twelve months and those of the world’s most famous Donald – Donald John Trump. I believe that the satisfaction of achieving a goal is the same universally, regardless of its size. When we set our minds to achieving a desired outcome and accomplish it – be it becoming the US president or publishing a book – the feeling of satisfaction is undeniable.

So bear with me as I humbly draw a few parallels between the recent life experiences of President-elect Donald Trump and award-winning author Donald (Don) Elgin.

Below are seven key factors the two Donalds used to ensure that 2016 was a memorable year for both of them.

1 There was a plan

Donald Trump’s rise to the top of the political heap didn’t happen overnight. His success in 2016 is the culmination of years of developing his plan until the time was right to act on it. For about a decade Donald joined the American people in their living-rooms as the executive producer of the hit reality-TV show ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ – but more importantly as its host. This gave him years of opportunity to show potential voters how successful and powerful a man he is.

For the best part of forty years I’ve been creating the story of my pretty unusual life. People often suggested I should write a book about it, and I kind of agreed with them. But competing as an athlete on the world stage was my focus, not becoming an author. I could see a memoir – maybe even a series of books – on the horizon, but the timing needed to be right.

To fail to plan is to plan to fail

2 Not all plans go to plan

Donald Trump has weathered many financial disasters, but he’s also a man with many wins on the board. The announcement of his intention to run for the presidency of the USA drew a deafening chorus of critics ready to throw him to the wolves. They suggested that because he’d previously failed at something he would naturally fail again.

When I decided to write my first book in the year 2000, I thought it would be on the shelves a few months later. I worked with three different writers and had countless meetings with potential publishers – all to no avail. Fifteen years later, One Foot on the Podium was published. It went on to win an Independent Publishers’ Awards silver medal for best non-fiction in the Australia and NZ region.

If we only ever listened to the people who tell us what we can’t do, the world would be a very different place

3 What you say matters

Donald Trump has been dragged through the mud for having some pretty ordinary things to say about other humans. He has the right to his opinions: the fact that he expressed them so publicly is the unfortunate bit. He doesn’t seem to have realised that society has changed, and that we as individuals need to change with it. It’s fine to think whatever we like about other people, but it’s not always wise to blatantly express those opinions. Without a filter on our thoughts, our words can have some mighty big – and often unexpected – repercussions.

Earlier this year I received a very mixed bag of mail from all around the world when I openly commented on the situation a friend of mine, Oscar Pistorius, found himself in. Some of it was very ugly. I was reminded that although people may or may not share my view, that’s all it is – my opinion.

We can say whatever we like as long as we’re mindful that there may be unexpected and undesirable consequences

4 Teamwork is paramount

Sometimes the best ideas are not our own. Donald Trump is smart enough to surround himself with people who support his views, but even smarter in recruiting people who help form his views. He’s very vocal about America’s position on overseas military conflicts, for example, and rarely fails to acknowledge the input of the Generals who advise him. But while he will continue to be provided with expert advice, it’s up to him to make the final decisions.

The title of my first book was the result of discussion and collaboration. It came about through the elimination of many potential titles, and the provision of space for the creativity of the team to flow. At that point One Foot On the Podium shone through. It wasn’t my idea, but it sure was a good one.

We can get a lot done if we don’t mind who get’s the credit for it.

5 If you don’t support your ideas, why should anyone else?

During his presidential campaign Donald Trump travelled the length and breadth of America.  I have a strong suspicion that there’s more to the man than the bravado and extroverted persona he demonstrated during this period. Although his outward image is one of supreme confidence, I’d be willing to bet he’s experienced times of doubt, and that into the future there will be moments when he will be unsure. One thing he has shown us is that – good, bad or otherwise – he will always be on the front foot and will make a decision. We know the buck will stop with him.

With five trips overseas in three months, and travel to all but one Australian state for speaking engagements in 2016, I certainly racked up a swag of frequent flyer points. It’s an awesome feeling to have so many people take so much from my life journey. Having my books in hot demand at the end of every function is a real buzz. It took a lot of work to get to this point, though, and one of the biggest challenges was believing in myself. I firmly believed the reason for my success is the willingness to work hard. There were mixed feelings when it came to the naming of the second book, and I eventually made a captain’s call and titled it One Foot Beyond the Podium. While some loved the name with its obvious continuation of the theme of the earlier title, others close to me were less convinced. At the end of the day someone needs to make the call. We don’t always have the satisfaction of knowing if we made the right decision, but I’m glad to say that in this case the feedback has been positive.

You don’t drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there

6 History is our blueprint for the future

Donald Trump called on history to win the election. He wasn’t foolhardy enough to suggest that he’d make America great, but great again. His decision to invoke the powerful image of ‘the good old days’ was a masterstroke. He convinced millions of his listeners that regardless of the heartache and pain they may have experienced more recently, he would be able to lead them to a future which would re-create the happier past they had known.

As a motivational speaker I spend time in all parts of the world – I’m currently on my fourth passport – and I’m often asked by fellow athletes-turned-speakers how I get so many keynote speaking engagements. By way of reply I ask them about their own approach to the task, and often discover that their focus is on their gold medals. I think the reason I’m so busy is that as well as recounting my sporting past, I speak about the lessons I learnt from sport that anyone can use to enhance their life.

The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little bit extra

 7 Never forget where you came from

Donald Trump openly stated he had the ability to turn America’s fortunes around: he’d turned failure into success many times before. He used the tools of positive reinforcement and the power of experience to empower the American people to believe in him.

Earlier this year I undertook what turned out to be my toughest challenge yet. I walked the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea with a group of corporate leaders who were determined to unlimit themselves. If ever there have been meaningful lessons about why we call Australia the lucky country, they were in abundance on the Track. The dawning awareness that so many men were willing to make a sacrifice that has enable me to live the life I do was a brilliant wakeup call: I hope I never lose sight of its significance.

2016 was a big year for at least two Donalds, and I’m looking forward to following the journey of the famous American one as it takes shape in 2017. I also look forward to seeing how my sequel memoir will be judged – the winners are announced in April. Will it receive a medal? Will I travel to the US to accept it? We’ll just have to wait and see.

I can’t tell you how to become the president of the United States, but what I can tell you is that if you’re looking for a couple of great books to get stuck into over the summer – or you just want to buy some fantastic Christmas presents – then I’ve got the books for you.

One Foot on the Podium & One Foot Beyond the podium

Happy reading, stay safe and thanks for helping me have an amazing 2016.