I’ve had a job since I was 7 years old. But instead of going to an office, I spent my days at the gym.
My job was gymnastics and my return on investment was an Olympic gold medal, which I won with my U.S. teammates at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. I was 14 and became the youngest Olympic gold medalist in U.S. women’s gymnastics history.
It’s been 20 years since that victory. Now, as a wife, mother, New York Times’ best-selling author and business owner, I look back on that time and realize how much of what I learned as an elite gymnast has carried over into my jewelry business today.
The journey can be rough
The road here was bumpy, which I recount in my memoir “Off Balance.” Although I had lots of adversity growing up, my perseverance helped me succeed as the oldest daughter of immigrant parents.
I became the first in my immediate family to earn a college degree (from John Carroll University), just two months after my second child was born. Before my first child was born, I learned I had a secret sister, who was born with no legs and given up for adoption at birth.
All of these experiences have shaped who I am, both as a person and entrepreneur. With my work ethic, drive and passion, I’ve always felt I’d be good at running my own business. Plus, I wanted the flexibility it could offer to a mom striving for work/life balance.
As I work to grow my business, I realize gymnastics served as a small model for life. Through the sport, I developed five key characteristics that are helping me as a business owner today:
- Discipline: Slackers do not become Olympians. Being a champion takes great strength and determination. You don’t become the best in sports or in life without discipline. Gymnastics offered me this lesson and now I push myself on a daily basis because of this work ethic I learned growing up. I also know how to navigate the ups-and-downs of life and continue to move forward.
- Punctuality: If I was one second late to gymnastics practice, I’d be kicked out. So punctuality became an ingrained value at a young age. So did the value of time and goal setting. I knew what I had to accomplish in a limited amount of time.
- Do-it-Right-the-First-Time Attitude: In gymnastics, a wrong move could mean a serious injury or an Olympic dream dashed. I couldn’t perform a flip on the beam with partial effort and expect success. I always had to go full out. So I learned early not to do things halfway. I don’t cut corners. I do it right (or strive to) the first time.
But when I decide to do something, I do it, despite the naysayers and critics. I do it because I believe in it.
Dominique Moceanu at 13 was the youngest person to win a U.S. Senior Women’s National Championship and youngest U.S. female gymnast to win a gold medal at an Olympics. An author and international speaker, she lives in suburban Cleveland with her husband and two children.